Breonna Taylor protests over Kentucky Derby weekend in Louisville


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After a four-month delay, the 146th Kentucky Derby will be run today. And though the event will be without spectators, the horses, jockeys and trainers will be far from alone in Louisville.

    Throughout Saturday, marches and rallies are expected downtown and outside Churchill Downs, where the horse race will be run in the evening.

    Along with demonstrations by local protesters, who are demanding justice for Breonna Taylor and said they want the Derby canceled, the NFAC (Not F***ing Around Coalition), a Black militia, plans to hold a formation. And a « patriotic event » is planned for Saturday morning by an online personality known as « The Angry Viking » and his supporters.

    The Courier Journal will continually provide you updates on the protests throughout Friday and Saturday. Make sure to check back to this article and regularly.

    A group of fewe than 10 people, with a car accompanying them, walked on Longfield Avenue near the backside of Churchill Downs early Saturday, chanting “Breonna Taylor” and “No justice. No peace,” among other messages.

    Their goal appeared to be a simple one: Make noise about Taylor’s case and perhaps cause some residents of the neighborhood to receive a sudden wake-up call.

    One person banged on what appeared in the early morning darkness to be a cowbell, while others used a megaphone to set off siren sounds.

    Chatter on a police scanner revealed conversations among officers about how they had not found any protesters by Churchill Downs.

    After asking crowds to leave the streets at Sixth and Jefferson, Louisville Police officers moved back to the corner across from the park. 

    Among the protesters was John « Grandmaster Jay » Johnson, the leader of the Not F*cking Around Coalition, a Black militia. Johnson previously announced his group would come to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. 

    Johnson briefly spoke to the crowd, and an argument broke out that appeared to be about some local protesters, who have been in the streets for the last 100 days, being opposed to the NFAC bringing guns to the park. 

    The crowd of marchers arrived back at Jefferson Square Park around 8 p.m., at which time a group knelt, lifted their fists in the air and chanted « Breway, » « I love being Black » and others. 

    Shortly thereafter, LMPD officers arrived at Sixth and Jefferson to ask protesters to get out of the road.

    About 150 people converged on the Kentucky Derby Festival office on Third Street in downtown Louisville. Several cried « No justice, no Derby. » 

    The crowd then moved south on Third Street when some police arrived after a police-free evening and headed back to Jefferson Square Park, called by many protesters Injustice Square Park. Along the way they passed several police officers at intersections. 

    Starting at Sixth and Jefferson, about 100 people headed out on a march, like they’ve done over and over during the last 100 days. First on Fourth Street and then on Broadway, they waved signs and flags in the air. 

    As the protesters got ready for the march, they sang songs, danced and chanted « we stand strong. We stand tall. We refuse to see another one fall.”

    Just before 6 p.m., Courier Journal reporter Bailey Loosemore reported on Twitter that artist Deanna Rushing placed 90 markers around the Breonna Taylor memorial, bearing various names of people who’ve been killed by police since 2014. 

    Earlier, a protester held up a Derby-related sign at the park. « Breonna’s Law, » « Defund the police » and « end cash bail » were printed next to scratched-out Derby horses Tiz the Law, Money Moves and Storm the Court. 

    About 50 people sat beneath trees, played music and paid their respects at Taylor’s memorial mid-afternoon, as they awaited a march planned later in the day.

    One man sold shirts from his car, bearing the words 100 Days of Resistance, while others set up a charcoal grill.

    Anna Harrison sat at a table where she’s spent dozens of days serving food to protesters.

    The movement here has been “spectacular,” she said, but the protests should have been able to end long ago.

    “The mayor is not stepping up and doing his job. Daniel Cameron is not stepping up and doing his job,” Harrison said. “…(But) people keep marching. They’re not giving up, they’re not backing down. They’re on a mission. And their mission is not gonna be completed until they get the justice that Breonna deserves.”

    Shortly after a press conference from the Louisville Metro Police Department, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer took to social media to encourage people to « stick to the facts. »

    « We know rumors & misinformation are circulating about protests on Saturday during the Kentucky Derby, » Fischer wrote in a tweet. « Let’s please stick to the facts. @LMPD has a plan & is ready to protect public safety while respecting 1st Amendment rights to peacefully protest. »

    During the LMPD press conference, Assistant Chief of Police LaVita Chavous said there have been rumors about protesters’ intentions as well as rumors of police’s presence and tactics at Churchill Downs. She refuted all rumors.

    During a press conference, Assistant Chief of Louisville Metro Police LaVita Chavous said that the law enforcement presence at Churchill Downs is no different than in years past — rejecting claims made at Until Freedom’s press conference earlier in the day.

    Speakers at the social justice organization’s press briefing alleged that the city had installed excessive fencing around the track, as well as brought in military tanks to respond to planned demonstrations ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

    Chavous said during the police press conference that there have been rumors of planned carjackings and actions by protesters, and that those rumors are « meant to instill fear and division. »

    She also said that, on the law enforcement side, the installation of fences is not a tactic meant to suppress protests — as speakers at the Until Freedom event suggested — but is something they do every year for crowd control and management for the Kentucky Derby.

    Speakers at the Until Freedom press conference also decried the deployment of military tanks, but Chavous said that there are no tanks — just armored vehicles to manage potentially dangerous incidents and « for safety of everyone. »

    « We do this every year, in, we prepare days in advance and what you see is evident in that preparation, » Chavous said.

    In a press conference hosted by social justice organization Until Freedom near Churchill Downs, speakers delivered rebukes of the Kentucky Derby and the militarization of Louisville as Humvees and police stood behind them beyond a fence.

    Timothy Findley, a pastor at Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center and the founder of the Justice and Freedom Coalition, said there has been a « continued pattern of meeting peaceful protesters, with over-militarization with provocation and a continued stoking of fear. »

    « I would remind everyone listening, that there have been 100 days of protesting, » Findley said. « The first two days were difficult days. 98 days have been peaceful. All of the talk of looting, all of the talk of rioting, all of the talk of violence — it has not happened. »

    Tamika Mallory, a co-founder of Until Freedom, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has created « slave-like circumstances » for protests.

    « We are not slaves. We got out of cages a long time ago, Mayor Fischer, » Mallory said. « … What we believe it should mean to stand as a Democratic mayor is that you do not support slavery. But that’s what it looks like when you demand that nonviolent protesters be caged up so that horses can run for the entertainment of the rich and famous.

    Speakers reminded people that there will be a mass demonstration at South Central Park starting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Speakers led chants of « no justice, no Derby » throughout the press conference.

    Contact Ben Tobin at [email protected] and 502-377-5675 or follow on Twitter @TobinBen. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:


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