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Mayor Calls For Calm With More Protests Planned in Louisville

J. Tyler Franklin

Mayor Greg Fischer is appealing for calm on the streets following protests in downtown Louisville Thursday night. The protest moved through downtown for several hours and was largely peaceful, until gunfire rang out and seven people were wounded late in the evening.

The demonstration attracted hundreds of people and was in response to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid conducted by LMPD officers in March.

On Friday morning, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said five of the seven wounded were treated at the scene, and two were taken into surgery. All are currently in stable condition, he said. 

Two police officers were taken to the hospital with chest pains, according to Louisville Metro Police Assistant Chief LaVita Chavous.  Three people have been arrested in connection the demonstration, but police say they have no leads in connection with the shootings.

Chavous said the department did not deploy tear gas until after protestors began to vandalize private and public property, and gunshots were fired. 

According to Mayor Fischer, no officers fired their weapons.

“We value the right to free speech and understand this community has a lot to say right now,” Chavous said. “We will not tolerate violence that leads to people being hurt. We will not tolerate the destruction of our beautiful city.”

With more protests planned for this weekend, Chavous said time off has been cancelled for all officers. She said LMPD is working on a response plan that could involve calling in additional officers from neighboring police departments. 

Fischer called for an end to the violence.

“The fight for justice cannot be won with guns and vandalism,” he said. “It can only be won with persistence and commitment to the shared goal of creating a city of peace, safety, equality and justice for everyone.”

He read a statement from Breonna Taylor’s family that expressed the same sentiment.  

“The last thing that she would want to see right now is any more violence,” Fischer read. “Changes are being made. It’s not enough. It will not stop until there’s truth, justice and accountability.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old ER technician, was killed by LMPD officers in her home on March 13. Officers were serving a “no-knock” warrant just after midnight. A lawsuit filed by the family alleges that the police did not identify themselves.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said through his attorney he fired a warning shot at police in self-defense. He claims he did not know who was entering the apartment. His shot hit one of the officers. Police fired back, hitting Taylor at least eight times.  

Since Taylor’s death made national news, the police chief has announced his retirement and the department has suspended the use of no-knock warrants while the policy is under review. The city also created a committee to consider creation of a Civilian Review Board for the police department, which has its first meeting on Friday. 

Thursday night’s protests coincided with similar protests in Minneapolis over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody. Protestors took over and burned a Minneapolis Police Department precinct station and dozens of businesses were looted in Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying the killings of Taylor, Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have “shaken our nation.” According to the statement, “these tragedies do not appear as isolated incidents, but as the latest disturbing chapters in our long, unfinished American struggle to ensure that equal justice under law is not conditional on the color of one’s skin.”

McConnell said he is glad Metro Police are investigating Taylor’s death, that the FBI is involved and that Kentucky’s attorney general will evaluate actions that may be necessary.

McConnell also condemned Thursday night’s violence in Louisville and elsewhere.

“Stealing, burning down buildings, attacking law enforcement officers, or laying siege to police precincts is not speech or protest. It is violent crime that victimizes innocent people,” the statement said.

Earlier Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear responded to the protest in a tweet.

“My heart aches for Louisville & our country. Breonna Taylor’s family & the public deserve the truth. We should honor Breonna’s legacy as an EMT & the pursuit of the truth should not be marred by violence.”

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