LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Wearing her niece's EMT jacket, Bianca Austin led a chant that has echoed throughout Louisville over the past 365 days.
"Breeway!" a crowd of hundreds answered.
One year after Louisville Metro Police officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment, community members and people from around the country gathered Saturday to renew calls for those officers to be held accountable for the Black woman's death.
Austin and other family members, including Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, were front and center for a rally at Jefferson Square Park — the epicenter of Louisville's racial justice protests that broke out May 28, 2020. Speakers included activists and attorneys who have been demanding justice for Taylor from the beginning.
"Until a jury trial tells us that these officers are not guilty, there's always time to indict, arrest and convict the cops that murdered Breonna Taylor," said attorney Lonita Baker, who was among a team of lawyers representing Taylor's family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. "And that's what we're going to continue to fight for."
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was shot and killed by undercover LMPD officers who were serving a search warrant at her apartment around 1 a.m. March 13, 2020, to look for money and drugs as part of a broader narcotics investigation.
Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he thought the officers were intruders and fired a single shot when they used a battering ram to break down the apartment door. His shot hit one of the officers in the leg.
The officers combined to return 32 shots, and Taylor was hit six times and died in her hallway. No drugs or money were found at the apartment, according to a police inventory log.
Three of the officers involved in the raid have since been fired but are appealing their termination. None of the officers who fired their weapons into Taylor's apartment have been charged in connection with her death.
"I read an article where Tamika Palmer said every day is March 13 for her," poet Hannah Drake said. "And as long as every day is March 13 for her, then every day I'm gonna be fighting for Breonna Taylor.
"... This city broke the contract to protect and serve," she added. "... Tamika didn't break the contract. Breonna didn't break the contract."
After an investigation from Attorney General Daniel Cameron's office, a Jefferson County grand jury in September charged one of those officers, former Detective Brett Hankison, with three felony counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into an apartment neighboring Taylor's during the raid.
The FBI in May opened an investigation into Taylor's death. On Saturday, Special Agent Robert Brown with the FBI's Louisville field office said the organization has "made significant progress" in the investigation.
"On this one year anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor, FBI Louisville remains steadfast in its commitment to bringing this investigation to its appropriate conclusion," Brown said in a statement. "... Our team is actively investigating all aspects of her death and will continue to work diligently until this investigation is completed."
Not long after activist Dr. Umar Johnson spent part of his speech calling on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to be more outspoken in seeking justice for Taylor, Biden tweeted the following: "Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy, a blow to her family, her community, and America. As we continue to mourn her, we must press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress. I remain committed to signing a landmark reform bill into law."
Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy, a blow to her family, her community, and America. As we continue to mourn her, we must press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress. I remain committed to signing a landmark reform bill into law.— President Biden (@POTUS) March 13, 2021
The city paid Taylor's family $12 million and implemented numerous reforms to its police department to settle the wrongful death lawsuit six months after Taylor was shot and killed. Still, Taylor's mother told WDRB News that her vision of justice for her daughter includes prosecuting the officers involved in the fatal raid.
"I don't think it's too much to ask," Palmer told WDRB News in a recent interview. "It's just the right thing to do."
Addressing the crowd Saturday, Walker was met with cheers when he said the charges against him were dropped for good on March 8.
"I say that's a nice start, but that's not where we finish," he said. "We gotta keep going."
When the speakers finished, the crowd of hundreds began a march through the city's streets. Some held signs or waved flags. Some rode bikes or pushed strollers. Another kept pace in an electric wheelchair. One man played the trumpet. Another carried a giant wooden cross. A boy yelled, "Protect Black women" through a megaphone. All of them said Taylor's name.
"I want them to grow up to see that their parents support change and equality," said one protester, Zachary Watson.
"Wake up, please," added another, Chris Wells. "All we want is justice, and then we will stop taking over the streets. That's all we want is justice. Equal rights. Equal opportunities. That's it."
"The march ended where it began: the 1-acre park where cries for justice for Taylor first rang out and eventually echoed around the world.
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