The decision by a Kentucky grand jury not to indict any of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor has sparked pain and protest across the nation, including in Madison.
Last night, dozens organized a memorial to Breonna Taylor on the steps of the Capitol building, where speakers denounced the ruling, racism, and the continued unjustified deaths of Black people.
A pedestal where the Forward statue once stood had been turned into a memorial for Breonna Taylor, whose name has been chanted frequently at local and national Black Lives Matter protests this summer.
Related: Youth Protesters Take the Lead
Last night, candles flickered as speakers recalled local victims also killed by police whose deaths have fueled protests against police brutality.
“But understand that they still walk with us, right now they are here with us,” she said, “Rodney, Tony Robinson, Elliot are here with us.”
In 2015, Madison police officer Matt Kenny shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson during a welfare call. No charges were filed, although Robinson’s killing sparked a review of the Madison Police Department and the City of Madison later settled a more than $3 million dollar lawsuit with his family.
Two months ago, 21-year-old Rodney Freeman was found drowned in a lagoon days after being chased by Monona police officers. The state Department of Justice is investigating the case as an officer-involved-death.
And last week, 24-year old Elliot Johnson died in Madison after a chase by the Monona Police Department. The DOJ is investigating his death, and reports claim that officers on the scene heard a gunshot come from within the vehicle. Some protesters dispute that narrative, and the DOJ states that the cause of death is not known at this time.
A speaker at Breonna Taylor’s memorial last night says that her death exemplifies the inequality between Black and white Americans.
“Because we do things like suffer the worst consequence known to man because all we wanted to do was go to sleep at night,” the speaker said.
Yesterday, a Kentucky grand jury indicted one of the three officers involved with Taylor’s death. Officer Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of wanton-endangerment for the shots he fired that went into a neighboring apartment, but none of the officers were indicted for killing Taylor.
Police killed Taylor, a 26 year-old emergency room technician, in her Louisville apartment back in March after being issued a no-knock warrant. These warrants allow officers to enter private property without announcing themselves.
In 2019, the Madison Police department obtained 37 no-knock or high risk warrants, according to open records obtained by Forward Lookout. That’s nearly four times the number of warrants issued in 2018, and the reason for this spike is unclear.
Ayomi Obuseh, an organizer with the Madison youth advocacy group Impact Demand, spoke with WORT back in June. She said the banning of no-knock warrants has been a key issue since the start of the organization.
“So basically, right now, if you’re a police officer dressed in plain-clothing you can walk into someone’s house without knocking and point a gun at them, and it seems wrong. And if you point a gun back, you can get in trouble.”
Governor Evers proposed several police reform bills back in June, including a ban on no-knock warrants. After the shooting of Jacob Blake in August, Evers called a special session for legislators to consider the proposed legislation. Republican lawmakers have refused to take up the bills, but have created a task force to study police reform issues.
Editor’s note: This headline has been updated, and additional stories linked.
(Photo credit: Chali Pittman/WORT News)