(TMU) – Nearly 90 people were arrested and now face felony charges after refusing to disperse in a protest demanding justice for Breonna Taylor – a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot to death in her home by Louisville police – that ended on the lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Demonstrators now face one to five years in prison if they are convicted on felony charges under Kentucky law.
By all accounts, the protest was peaceful as over 100 community members gathered near Ballard High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and began marching to the conservative attorney general’s home, reports WLKY. Community members were marching to demand that officials charge the three Louisville officers who shot Taylor to death in March while executing a no-knock search warrant at her home.
Participants in the march organized by advocacy group Until Freedom included NFL wide receiver Kenny Stills, Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond, and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” actress Porsha Williams, reports the Louisville Courier Journal.
As protesters began arriving in Cameron’s neighborhood, some began sitting and standing on Cameron’s lawn, prompting him to call the police and demand that they be removed from his front yard.
When protesters were told to leave by police, many peacefully disobeyed and were arrested without incident. 87 demonstrators, including Stills and Redmond, were all charged with felonies and two misdemeanors.
As we previously reported, many people were arrested yesterday during a peaceful protest for #BreonnaTaylor 🕊
Kenny Stills, a WR for the NFL's Houston Texans, is among the 87 protesters facing felony charges after being arrested Tuesday at a protest in Louisville. pic.twitter.com/xOtt3JzlTe
— My Mixtapez (@mymixtapez) July 15, 2020
“Due to their refusal to leave the property and their attempts to influence the decision of the Attorney General with their actions, each person was charged with Intimidating a Participant in a Legal Process,” the spokesperson said. “They also face disorderly conduct and trespassing charges, both misdemeanors.”
While one might assume that the act of protesting a public official is a right granted to citizens under the U.S. Constitution, the state of Kentucky considers intimidating a participant in a legal process to be a Class D felony that carries a sentence of up to five years.
In a tweet, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blasted the arrests as an “overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate reaction to a community that is rightfully upset with [government] delay in holding the police accountable.”
“The only purpose these charges serve is to potentially chill the free speech rights of protesters,” the Kentucky ACLU added.
This is an overblown, outrageous, and inappropriate reaction to a community that is rightfully upset with govt delay in holding the police accountable. The only purpose these charges serve is to potentially chill the free speech rights of protesters #JusticeForBreonna https://t.co/fLPFV7fx6c
— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) July 15, 2020
However, in a statement to WAVE 3 Cameron accused demonstrators of trying to “escalate” the situation and “further division and tension within our community” by demanding that the police who killed Breonna Taylor be held accountable for their crimes.
“Justice is not achieved by trespassing on private property, and it’s not achieved through escalation,” he said. “It’s achieved by examining the facts in an impartial and unbiased manner. That is exactly what we are doing and will continue to do in this investigation.”
Taylor, a certified emergency medical technician, was killed in her home on March 13 when three plainclothes cops broke into her home with a no-knock warrant while she was asleep.
Police claim that they knocked and announced their presence before forcefully entering her apartment, and only began firing into the home when they were “immediately met by gunfire” from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.
However, Walker maintains that he only fired his weapon at the officers when they broke into the home without identifying themselves.
87 peaceful protesters arrested for demanding justice for Breonna Taylor and charged with felonies.
0 of Breonna Taylor’s killers arrested. 0 charged.
How is this justice?
Call Louisville’s Dept. of Corrections and tell them to release EVERY peaceful protester: 502-574-8477
— Grassroots Law Project (@grassroots_law) July 15, 2020
The undercover officers fired over 20 shots into the apartment, eight of which struck Taylor.
Protesters have been demanding justice from authorities in the Southern state since Taylor’s death. The killing of Breonna Taylor has also come under renewed scrutiny and become the focus of intensified community mobilizations since the shocking May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which set in motion a nationwide movement against racial injustice and police brutality.
Since Taylor’s death at police hands, Louisville has banned no-knock warrants in a bill named “Breonna’s Law,” WLKY reports.
Brett Hankison of the Louisville police was terminated June 23, over three months after the killing of Taylor, following a review of the deadly incident. According to Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder, Hankison violated deadly force protocols when he blindly unloaded his gun into Taylor’s apartment without prior knowledge or evidence that the situation required it.
Two other officers involved in the killing, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, remain on the force but have been placed on administrative leave.