An announcement Wednesday confirmed that none of the officers involved in the shooting of 26-year-old hospital worker Breonna Taylor will face charges related to her death. The development in what has become a symbolic case of racial injustice for the police reform movement has reignited protests across the country. Chester County and neighboring regions have seen the protest efforts of local racial equality groups redoubled in the days following the verdict.
On Friday, the Facebook page “West Chester Alliance for Social Justice” organized a demonstration from 6–8 p.m. at the historic courthouse in West Chester. Over the two-hour course of the event, 20–25 protestors participated, holding signs by the Old Glory statue at the corner of High and Market streets. The signs, a few of which read “Justice for Breonna Taylor” and “White Silence is Violence,” drew a variety of reactions from Friday evening passersby, mostly those of support and solidarity. In attendance were members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Chester County.
The decision of the Louisville grand jury to only charge one of the officers involved in the shooting with “wanton endangerment” represents to many the failure of the judicial system to hold police accountable beyond surface level admonitions, like paid administrative leave. “The officers who killed Breonna Taylor were only charged for the bullets that didn’t hit her,” read one sign at another local protest in Upper Darby. The demonstration was led by an Upper Darby-based activist group, Understanding, Devotion, Taking Action and Justice (UDTJ), who organized a “die-in” from 5–7 p.m. at the 69th Street Terminal. After gathering at the corner, the protestors marched into the street, where approximately 20 police officers had blocked traffic. Facing a polarized response of passionate support and argumentation, protesters led chants and held signs until 6 p.m., at which point they lay down in the intersection.
The story of the night of March 13 has found its way into every protest since Taylor’s death. Under a boilerplate warrant issued by Louisville Judge Mary Shaw, which stated the advantages of entering a residence without knocking, at least four officers approached the house in unmarked cars and plain clothes at 12:40 a.m. The purpose of the warrant was to investigate a suspected connection between Taylor and an ex-boyfriend involved in the drug trade, with whom she had broken off contact. Without announcing their identity as police, they began hammering on the front door of Taylor’s residence, where she and her partner, Kenneth Walker, were sleeping. After asking repeatedly for the intruders to identify themselves, Walker retrieved his licensed firearm. Using a battering ram, the police broke the door off of its hinges, at which point Walker fired one round at the doorway, hitting an officer in the thigh. The three officers blindly opened fire, sending bullets all over the apartment, into neighboring apartments and killing Taylor.
Protests continue in Philadelphia, where a crowd of demonstrators blocked off parts of I-95 as they marched from Independence Hall to South Philly on Thursday.
Around the country, reactions to the surge of protests have been severe. In Louisville, more than 20 protesters were arrested during demonstrations. Portland, Oregon has once again found itself in the national spotlight as protestors marching in resistance to the verdict are expected to clash with the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, who are holding a rally in support of President Donald Trump on Saturday afternoon.
Trump has stated his support for the verdict. “I thought it was really brilliant,” he said of the grand jury’s decision not to convict any of the officers for Taylor’s death.
Detective Brett Hankinson was released on $15,000 cash bond and faces one to five years in prison if found guilty. The other two officers involved in the shooting, Myles Cosgrove and Mike Campbell, are still employed. Judge Mary Shaw has faced no reprimand for issuing the no-knock order.
Brendan Lordan is a fourth-year English major with a minor in Journalism BL895080@wcupa.edu