LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Determined to press authorities to stop stalling and prosecute the cops who killed Breonna Taylor, hundreds demonstrated outside the 146th Kentucky Derby Sept. 5. Taylor, an emergency room technician, died at the hands of the city cops during a no-knock raid at her apartment nearly six months ago.
Officers had smashed in the door and then blindly fired over 20 rounds into her home shortly after midnight, March 13, after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a single shot thinking intruders had broken in. Authorities are dragging out their probe into the killing, hoping concern about growing violence associated with the protests will lead to their fizzling out and help them bury the case. Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron still says there is no timetable for making a decision whether to prosecute the cops. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear calls for “patience.”
Serious threats to working people arose that day as people joined the march carrying guns. Another group of about 100 stood brandishing weapons as the anti-cop brutality march arrived at the Derby. These were members of the “Not F—ing Around Coalition” — a Georgia-based outfit that claims to speak for African Americans and opposes cop brutality.
Their presence made it easier for another armed group, which describes itself as “patriots,” organized by Dylan Stevens, to threaten the march. Its members chanted “All Lives Matter,” “U.S.A.” and slogans backing the cops when they marched near anti-police-brutality protesters downtown earlier in the day.
Until Freedom, a New York-based group, has been in Louisville for weeks organizing actions around Breonna Taylor, largely focused on getting participants arrested for trespassing or blocking the streets. Other actions, promoted as “protests,” have degenerated into looting and vandalism organized by antifa and other currents, as well as by hoodlums.
This has alienated many working people, who widely support the prosecution of the cops who killed Taylor, from joining the actions.
Speakers at the peaceful rally at the South Central Park on Sept. 5 included Rev. Timothy Findley Jr., of the Kingdom Fellowship Church.
“We have to protest today because the eyes of the world are on this city,” he said. “Everyone has to know that we are serious about our call for justice.”
Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, called for the cops who killed Taylor to be prosecuted and urged protesters to be disciplined. “If someone along the road tries to divert you from your cause here, don’t respond. We know we are marching today for justice for Breonna. Stay focused!”
But organizers did not condemn or prevent participants from carrying arms, ensuring the protest drew far fewer people than it could have and setting up participants for potentially deadly confrontations.
As the 2-mile march made its way through the working-class neighborhood that surrounds the Churchill Downs racetrack, residents stood on their porches watching, a few joining in discussions with demonstrators. Many looked on cautiously, expressing concern about anticipated violence. A plane flew overhead with a banner that read, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”
Margaret Trowe, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, marched with protesters to Churchill Downs. She told participants, “It is incumbent on all forces that want to see large, disciplined, inclusive actions pressing for charges against the cops who shot Breonna Taylor to speak out against armed thugs of whatever political hue.”
“Armed groups, vandalism and looting are a deadly danger to the fight against police brutality and to the working class in general,” she said. Trowe pointed to the capacities of working people to change our conditions and the necessity of organizing in our millions to end the source of cop brutality — capitalist rule.