5-30-20 Protests on Bardstown Road

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Large groups of protesters converged in downtown Louisville on Saturday night to speak out against police brutality and demand justice for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville Metro Police officers. 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer commended individuals who remained peaceful and did not escalate demonstrations to the vandalism and violence seen Thursday and Friday nights. Protesters were more manageable than the past two evenings, he added, although that could be attributed to a new curfew, which many protesters broke, or the added presence of Kentucky National Guardsmen

Groups of peaceful demonstrators around the Hall of Justice at Sixth and Jefferson were met with tear gas from authorities before and after Fischer's 9 p.m. curfew took effect. The curfew runs to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, and authorities have made more than 10 arrests on charges of disorderly conduct and "rioting," according to Tracy Dotson, a spokesperson with Louisville Metro Corrections

Fischer offered an apology to anyone who was tear gassed while protesting peacefully, including State Rep. Charles Booker, who shared his experience on Twitter

"We were yards away. No one was confrontational. It was not 9 (p.m.) They started throwing gas at us anyway," Booker said in the tweet. "I wish I could say this is unbelievable."

WDRB News reporter Sara Sidery said she was among individuals who were tear gassed "without warning" moments before going live during the station's team coverage of the protests. 

"Look, anybody that was affected by tear gas — if they were peacefully protesting, that's something that we don't want to have take place," Fischer said during his briefing. "We apologize if any of this took place."

Despite members of the media being exempt from Fischer's curfew, authorities told a crew of WDRB News journalists to leave an area of downtown Louisville while they were trying to cover the protests. 

Fischer apologized for how the journalists were treated and said, "We want the media to be fully operational."

"We'll notify all of our police officers through all of our means; they should have been notified already" Fischer said. "The press can definitely be out."

Gov. Andy Beshear approved Fischer's request to dispatch the guard after demonstrations Friday escalated to individuals breaking windows, raiding businesses, setting fires and graffiting public property. Authorities blocked access into downtown early Saturday evening and used tear gas and shot pepper balls at protesters in attempts to get crowds to disperse. 

One group of protesters started at Sixth and Jefferson Streets, where demonstrations centered Thursday and Friday. Early on in the evening, individuals who were later identified as police officer in plain clothes, pulled a pick-up truck next to protesters' stockpile of milk and water near the Hall of Justice and began smashing and stealing the supplies, which are commonly used to recover from being tear gassed. A group of state police officers with riot shields surrounded the officers to prevent protesters from grabbing the plastic jugs. 

During a briefing around 10:30 p.m., Fischer said the supplies were confiscated because there were mason jars with flammable materials and other harmful materials mixed in with the milk and water.

"The best decision for the safety of everybody was to remove those materials," Fischer said. 

The mayor did not specify what the harmful substances were and did not clarify why the best way to dispose of flammable materials was tossing them into the back of a pickup truck. 

Another group of protesters gathered on Bardstown Road at Baxter Avenue and marched south through the Highlands. Demonstrators at one point laid on the ground and chanted, "I can't breathe," echoing the words of George Floyd, a black man who was killed Monday, May 25, by police in Minneapolis. 

The group had tense moments with a line of police officers in riot gear before marching back through the area to the entrance of Cave Hill Cemetery. National Guard troops worked their way into the area as curfew went into affect, so many of those gathered in the area either dispersed or began marching toward downtown.

"They're purposely violating our peaceful protest," one protester told WDRB News reporter Chad Mills as the group marched downtown. 

Another group of protesters walked south down Bardstown as the night progressed, which led to a standoff with authorities at the corner of Bardstown and Highland Avenue. Tear gas was used to disperse that crowd, and the area became relatively quiet.  

LMPD responded around 11 p.m. to a shooting in the 700 block of Clay Street, according to a news release from department Spokeswoman Alicia Smiley. Officers found a woman who had been shot at the scene, and she was taken to University of Louisville Hospital in "critical" condition. While police were investigating the shooting, Smiley said another shooting victim "from Clay (Street)" was taken to University Hospital "by private means" with "non-life-threatening" injuries.

LMPD said it does not believe the shootings were connected to the protests. 

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