LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Tear gas filled the air Friday night in downtown Louisville after peaceful protests against police brutality escalated to more intense moments between hundreds of protesters and local and state authorities.
Some groups marched peacefully to honor Breonna Taylor, an emergency room tech and former EMT who was shot to death by Louisville Metro Police officers on March 13. Other demonstrators broke windows, graffitied walls, raided businesses and set fires.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Saturday morning requested the National Guard's presence and implemented a "dusk to dawn" curfew, which will be from 9 p.m. Saturday until 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
"This has been a very sad night for our city," Fischer said during a briefing just after 1 a.m. Saturday. " ... There needs to be ample recognition of the underlying inequity that causes so much of this frustration, but there is no excuse for the destruction of property we have seen this evening. This is not protest; it is violence.
"... It besmirches any claim to honor Breonna's memory," he added. "Violence does not bring us any closer to the truth in her case."
Due to a "significant amount" of people joining in from out of town, officials with the Louisville Metro Police Department said Friday's protests, which stretched into the early hours of Saturday, were larger than Thursday's, during which seven people were shot when gunfire erupted outside of Metro Hall.
Fischer and Jessie Halladay, a special advisor to LMPD, said out-of-towners stood out Friday by their license plates and by asking for directions during the protests. The mayor urged Louisville residents to stay at home, while Halladay said police hope to identify those responsible for destruction.
LMPD reported no gunshots, but Halladay said Saturday morning that six officers were injured, and one was taken to the hospital with a likely concussion after having "a firecracker thrown at him."
There were many instances of property damage around downtown. Nearly every business in Fourth Street live was hit by protesters, according to WDRB News reporter Chad Mills.
Some downtown business owners questioned why it took LMPD so long to respond to the destruction. Halladay said officers' primary concern was "safety of life," and they were dealing with large crowds spread throughout the city.
Juniyah Palmer, Taylor's sister, criticized the vandalism in a social media post and said the individuals behind it were "disrespecting" her family's wishes for "a safe and non-violent protest."
"At this point ya'll are no longer doing this for my sister!" Palmer said in the post. "You guys are just vandalizing stuff for no reason! I had a friend ask people why they are their (and) most didn't even know the 'protest' was for my sister. What you guys started at the (beginning) was fine and correctly done but once ya'll started vandalism you took my sister's name out of place! I honestly feel like you guys are disrespecting my family wishes for a safe and non-violent protest!"
Skirmishes flared up on city streets, with police using tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse crowds. Some protesters threw water bottles and shot fireworks in the direction of officers.
State Rep. Attica Scott, who represents District 41 in Louisville, said she was tear gassed by LMPD officers who she said "met peace with violence."
"@louisvillemayor I was just tear gassed by your police force. This was after one of your officers kept pushing me without ever asking me to move," Scott said in a tweet. "This was after we were never asked to disperse. This was during a peaceful protest. LMPD met peace with violence. I’m disgusted."
@louisvillemayor I was just tear gassed by your police force. This was after one of your officers kept pushing me without ever asking me to move. This was after we were never asked to disperse. This was during a peaceful protest. LMPD met peace with violence. I’m disgusted.— Attica Scott (@atticascott4ky) May 30, 2020
Earlier in the evening, protesters dumped red paint on the steps of the Hall of Justice and smeared hand prints on its glass panels. Other protesters pulled down and burned American and Louisville flags. Windows at LMPD headquarters were shattered.
Another group gathered for a peaceful protest in the Highlands, according to WDRB News' Lawrence Smith, who followed the group to the area and said most appeared to be locals.
At least six arrests were made during the protests, city officials said Saturday morning. Troopers with Kentucky State Police were called into the city to assist LMPD in monitoring the crowd. Surrounding suburban agencies are "on alert."
Video has surfaced of an officer targeting and shooting rounds of pepper balls at a team of journalists from WAVE 3 News while the journalists were broadcasting live.
Halladay said she believes the officer involved in the incident was with LMPD or possibly Louisville Metro Corrections. Police will investigate the incident, she added.
The protests began peacefully around 5 p.m. Friday when nonviolent demonstrations gathered at Metro Hall and the Hall of Justice at Sixth and Jefferson streets, the site of Thursday's demonstration. The group held signs, and some people lay on their backs and chanted, "I can’t breathe," echoing the words of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis.
"We want people to feel like they can come and express themselves," Halladay said. " ... We know there is a lot of anger and frustration people are feeling right now, and that is something we are trying to provide a space for."
Some protesters started marching toward the Second Street bridge, another site of confrontation Thursday, prompting authorities to close the bridge until further notice, according to an alert from Louisville EMS.
Protesters then gathered at Marriott's AC Hotel on Market Street for a peaceful march to Metro Hall that was organized by Colors Newspaper. Marchers echoed many of the same chants heard Thursday, including, "No justice, no peace — prosecute the police" and "Black lives matter." Some also chanted, "F*** the police."
Speakers at Metro Hall urged protesters to attend a community meeting Sunday to help lay the groundwork for what organizers are calling the "Reset Louisville" movement. Its goals are to call on Fischer to publicly apologize to the entire city and to Taylor's family and to develop a strategy to reduce police brutality.
"To all the peaceful protesters who marched tonight in Breonna Taylor’s name and to the many people marching with them in spirit, I want you to know I hear you, your city hears you and the country hears you," said Fischer, who in the wake of Thursday's protest temporarily suspended LMPD's use of no-knock warrants, which allow police officers to burst into a home, day or night, without giving notice.
While many have called for the three officers involved in the raid on Taylor's apartment to be fired, Fischer said Friday afternoon that it is not a "swift process."
After the speakers addressed the crowd, protesters marched in circles around the Hall of Justice and LMPD headquarters. The crowd then attempted to start a fire near an entrance to the Hall of Justice, where police officers waited on the other side of the glass doors.
Protesters broke out into different groups from Sixth and Jefferson, ushering in the chaos that fell over the city for the rest of the night and into Saturday morning.
- LMPD: 7 people shot, 1 'critical' during protest in downtown Louisville demanding justice for Breonna Taylor
- Louisville mayor suspends controversial 'no-knock' warrants used by police
- LMPD joins Kentucky State Police in monitoring Friday protest over Breonna Taylor shooting
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.