After more than six months of investigations, Black Lives Matter protests and calls for justice, a Kentucky grand jury has brought not a single charge against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician who was killed when Officers Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison entered her home under a no-knock warrant. As well as saying her name, we should remember theirs. These are three individuals who, in their actions and subsequent disgustingly lenient treatment demonstrate the deep, institutional failing of Black people and all those who’ve suffered at the hands of violent cops. Three people ended the life of another after raiding the wrong home, killing an innocent woman in the middle of the night, as she and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker slept. By any reasonable person’s measure, this is not justice.
As per AP, the prosecutors have said that the officers who fired their weapons were justified in using force to protect themselves. The only charge brought by the grand jury were three counts of “first-degree wanton endangerment” and weren’t even related to Breonna Taylor. They were brought against Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbour’s apartment during the raid. The backlash has been swift, with many outraged that, with this decision, it seems the grand jury is placing more weight on property damage to an empty apartment rather than the killing of Taylor. None of the charges even mention the murder of Taylor.
State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, notably the state’s first Black man to hold the role, spoke at a news conference. “According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” he said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.” The FBI is still investigating the potential violations of federal law in the case. Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing Taylor’s case called the indictment “outrageous and offensive to her memory.”
It is outrageous. But it’s also a decision that unfortunately, is not shocking to those who’ve been paying attention. The law as an institution favours its enforcing arm, the police. It’s yet more evidence that instead of “arresting the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” the focus should always have been “abolish the institutions, bodies and supposed ‘justice’ structures that let this happen.” We’ve discussed the need for defunding and abolishing the police before and it’s what the actual on-the-ground organisers in Louisville have been calling for since the beginning. Now, police have just received the clearest message they can kill Black people with impunity. If this decision doesn’t make it incredibly clear that the colonial, racist institution of the law will never be able to provide justice, and that it cannot be relied on, what else will?
As of writing, protests have begun in Louisville, with more expected to begin in other cities across the states. Louisville knew this was coming. Prior to the announcement of the verdict on Breonna Taylor’s killing, the state instigated a curfew, a state of emergency and primed and deployed the National Guard.
If you want to help, one of the most tangible things you can do now is donating to Louisville Community Bail Fund. The fund exists to not only bail out people, but provide post-release support to get them from jail, fed, and to a situation of safety. The below Twitter thread also includes links to house, healing and general funds as well as organisations and support to follow who are doing the work.
If you’re in the U.S., Justice For Breonna has an actionable list of individuals and organisations to contact to demand justice. Share information about people’s rights while protesting, here’s a video guide with an ASL translation and this post has a list in text form. Share information about defunding the police, for example from Invest/Divest Louisville or the below from Vyre. Finally, don’t fucking turn Breonna into a meme, again.
This moment is heavy. It’s devastating to see the things that should protect people become things that are weaponised against them and fail them. It can be hard to find the reasons to keep going in the face of what feels like a monolith of racial injustice. But it’s not an immovable object. History has shown us progress can be made, is being made and will be made. It will take effort and courage. Courage Breonna Taylor embodied in every aspect of her life.
We know she wrote down her goals on sticky notes, that she planned a life where she bought a home, got engaged, had a family. But Taylor also looked outside of herself. That life she planned? It was also in the service of others. She was an EMT, already preserving life in emergency rooms, and an aspiring nurse. She looked at the pain in this world, directly in its face, and decided she could help, decided to remain hopeful, to keep going. Today we’re trying to do the same.