Louisville under state of emergency as Breonna Taylor case looms

Louisville under state of emergency as Breonna Taylor case looms

Louisville, Kentucky, USA – The mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, has declared a state of emergency ahead of an expected decision on whether charges will be brought against the officers involved in the police killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman.

Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement on Tuesday he does not know when State Attorney General Daniel Cameron will announce a decision in the case, “but we must prepare for it”.

“Our goal is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights after the announcement,” Fischer added.

The declaration will allow the mayor to implement curfews and other restrictions as needed, the statement said.

Signs used during protests and rallies are gathered around a memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, US [Bryan Woolston/Reuters]

Parts of downtown Louisville were closed to traffic on Monday after the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) declared its own state of emergency in preparation for the expected announcement. Barricades were erected and there was heightened police presence. The department also cancelled all off-day and holiday requests until further notice.

“Due to increased attention and activity in anticipation of an announcement from Attorney General Daniel Cameron regarding the Breonna Taylor case, a decision was made to accelerate plans to physically restrict access to the downtown area,” LMPD said in a statement early on Tuesday.

Protesters accused police of “caging in a section” of the city.

“What’s happening in this city is once again a sign of the failed leadership. Who in their right mind thought caging in a section of this city was smart? It reminds me of a lyric in No Love by Lil Wayne that says, ‘OK, you want me up in a cage, then I’ll come out in beast mode,'” tweeted Louisville-based activist and writer Hannah Drake.

“You don’t cage ANYONE into submission. This was not the way. The leadership in this city doesn’t think. They just do- poorly,” she added.

Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder on Tuesday morning apologised to those who viewed the restrictions as a lockdown, but said they were necessary during this time.

“We just ask that people bear with us as we go through these unprecedented time,” Schroeder said at a news conference. “We felt these steps were necessary to help protect the public.” LMPD officials also stressed they do not know when Cameron plans to announce a decision in the case.

Cameron has not publicly commented on the case since September 9 when he cautioned against reading into “conflicting rumours”.

“When the investigation concludes and a decision is made, we will provide an update about an announcement. The news will come from our offices and not unnamed sources. Until that time, the investigation remains ongoing,” Cameron said in a statement at the time.

The attorney general’s office did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on Tuesday.

A few protesters, meanwhile, began gathering in the downtown area early on Tuesday, with more expected to join as the day goes on.

‘Say her name’

Taylor, 26, was killed by police in the early hours of March 13 when plain-clothes officers conducting a narcotics investigation barged into her home to serve a “no-knock” warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he mistook police for intruders and fired his weapon, injuring one officer. LMPD Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and then-Detective Brett Hankison returned fire, hitting Taylor at least five times and leaving her bleeding in her hallway where she died, according to the Courier Journal.

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, speaking during a news conference announcing a $12m civil settlement between the estate of Breonna Taylor and the city of Louisville, Kentucky, US [Bryan Woolston/Reuters] [Daylife]

The case garnered little national and international attention at the time, but it became a focal point during daily Black Lives Matter protests in Louisville after the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Chanting “say her name”, protesters have taken to Louisville’s streets for more than 115 days, demanding the officers involved in Taylor’s death be charged.

Following a Public Integrity Unit investigation, Hankison, who is white, was fired in June for “blindly” firing his weapon into Taylor’s apartment. He is contesting the decision. At least six officers, including the three who fired their weapons in Taylor’s apartment are under investigation by the police department’s Professional Standards Unit, according to the Courier Journal.

Last week, the city of Louisville announced it will pay Taylor’s family $12m and implement police reforms.

Taylor’s family welcomed the settlement, but demanded criminal charges against the officers involved.

“I’m hoping to hear that there will be charges,” Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, told NPR last week. “That these people will be fired and arrested.”