LMPD Surrounds Louisville Church Offering Refuge, Arrests Protesters

Sep 25, 2020

Protesters on the grounds of First Unitarian Church in Louisville face police Thursday night.
Credit screenshot via LMPD Facebook

State Rep. Attica Scott, her daughter Ashanti and at least 17 other protesters were arrested Thursday night on Fourth Street during a standoff of sorts with Louisville Metro Police officers around the property of a Fourth Street church.

Shameka Parrish-Wright, the co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance against Racist and Political Repression and one of the organizers who has occupied Jefferson Square Park since protests began in May, was also arrested during the standoff.

Rep. Scott was charged with unlawful assembly and first-degree rioting, according to Tracy Dotson, a spokesman for the FOP union representing Metro Correction officers. Her daughter faces similar charges.

First-degree rioting is a Class D felony — the same level offense that former LMPD officer Brett Hankison faces in connection with Breonna Taylor’s death.

Scott is the only Black woman in the state legislature. She’s a Democrat who represents Louisville, and she is the sponsor of a statewide Breonna’s Law, which seeks to ban no-knock warrants statewide, among other reforms.

Scott recently filed a formal complaint against the LMPD, alleging she was shoved by an officer and subjected to tear gas without warning, while peacefully protesting prior to the then-imposed city curfew of 9 p.m. in May.

Thursday night’s arrest took place on Fourth Street, where WFPL reporters witnessed, and an LMPD live stream broadcast, a scene where police encircled the First Unitarian Church and arrested protesters seeking refuge there.

“Under emergency orders, houses of worship are exempt from the curfew,” said a man who identified himself as Brother Tim. “So the church has opened this up as a sanctuary” — a place to get refreshments and legal aid if needed.

According to the Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office, “the curfew does not apply to people commuting to work, house of worship for services or seeking medical attention for themselves or others.”

Officers already had a large presence on Fourth Street. According to LMPD, protesters vandalized at least one business along Fourth Street and some TARC buses. But the most serious incident took place at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library near the church. A WFPL reporter heard a window smash then saw a flare lobbed into the building.

A photo released late Thursday by LMPD shows a bright flare burning on the floor of the library.

“Officers remained at 4th and York in order to secure the area so maintenance could address the library windows that were broken and an arson investigation begun,” Sgt. Lamont Washington, LMPD spokesman said in a statement.

They turned their attention to a large crowd at First Unitarian.

LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay said there were “several incidents of destruction” along the march route, so officers declared unlawful assembly.

“People went to the church as a safe place, others failed to disperse,” Halladay said. “Once we clear out people will be allowed to leave and go home.”

At nearly 11 p.m., officers were still surrounding the area while people yelled and chanted from the church property.

The crowd was allowed to leave shortly after 11 p.m., assuming they stayed on the sidewalks all the way to their cars, and then left downtown. The countywide curfew took effect at 9 p.m.