Protesters: Prosecute cops who killed Breonna Taylor!

By Brian Williams
August 24, 2020
Twenty-six billboards in Louisville from Oprah Magazine demand charge cops who killed Breonna Taylor.
Twenty-six billboards in Louisville from Oprah Magazine demand charge cops who killed Breonna Taylor.

Growing refusal among working people to accept police brutality is propelling support for the arrest and prosecution of the Louisville, Kentucky, cops who killed Breonna Taylor. But five months after the emergency-room technician was gunned down in a “no-knock” break-in at her apartment, authorities are still refusing to charge the three cops who carried out the killing.

Demonstrators rallied in Louisville Aug. 8 to honor Taylor and mark the sixth anniversary since cops shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, a Black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The action, organized by the New York-based Until Freedom group, attracted some 200 people. Among those joining the protest was Taylor’s sister, Juniyah Palmer, and Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown. “I’m very grateful to be here and memorialize Breonna Taylor,” he told the rally. Neither state nor federal authorities have charged Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Brown.

In New York City the following day, hundreds marched up the West Side Highway to Central Park chanting “Justice for Breonna Taylor!”

Reflecting the support the fight is drawing, Oprah Winfrey has placed a picture of Taylor on the cover of the September issue of “O, The Oprah Magazine,” the first time in 20 years that Winfrey herself will not be featured in that spot.

The picture of Taylor from the magazine cover is displayed around Louisville on 26 billboards — one for each year of Taylor’s life. “Demand that the police involved in killing Breonna Taylor be arrested and charged,” the billboards read.

For two months after Taylor was slain her family’s efforts to press authorities to explain what happened received little media attention. That changed after protests swept cities and small towns in the wake of the cop killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Demonstrations were held daily in Louisville for more than 70 days and actions nationwide demanded the officers who killed Taylor be charged.

On March 13 three plainclothes cops — Myles Cosgrove, Brett Hankison and Jonathan Mattingly — broke down the door to Taylor’s apartment in their late night raid. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thinking they faced a break-in, fired one bullet that hit one of the cops in the leg. The cops then opened fire, shooting over 20 rounds into the apartment, killing Taylor.

Taylor was alive for at least five minutes after the shooting, but the cops provided no medical assistance. Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder, but when public attention and protests began the charges were dropped.

Authorities try to bury the facts

No time frame for concluding the state’s “investigation” of the killing, headed by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, has been set. Authorities hope to drag out the probe, shoving the facts about Taylor’s killing under the rug, while pro-cop forces argue the officers should go scot-free.

Cops and state officials, however, have had no qualms about arresting over 500 protesters in  actions in Louisville against Taylor’s killing.

Since May 28 the Louisville Metro Police have also spent over $300,000 on pepper balls, chemical grenades and foam bullets for use against protesters. And cops announced Aug. 9 they would try to prevent protesters from marching on streets and restrict them to sidewalks.

“We should protest in a disciplined way,” Louisville Walmart worker Dorothy Webster told the Militant Aug. 10. But “by now there should be some kind of charges. The police should go on trial and they can plead their case.”

Cameron is also preventing the public release of Taylor’s autopsy report, as well as other information related to police radio recordings about her death.

The Louisville Courier Journal interviewed several “crime law experts” to try to exonerate the cops. “The officers should not be charged with murder or manslaughter because they had a legal right to defend themselves once her boyfriend shot at them,” the paper reported the “experts” argue.

One of the three cops — Hankison — was fired after chief cop Robert Schroeder accused him of blindly firing 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, “without verifying any person as an immediate threat or more importantly any innocent person present.” The other two cops are on administrative leave. None of the three cops recorded body camera video of the assault.

“Protesters in Louisville and other cities and towns nationwide continue to press this fight and my campaign stands with them,” Maggie Trowe, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, told the Militant Aug. 10. “Arrest and charge the three cops involved in killing Breonna Taylor now!”