The killing of a woman in Louisville has sparked an outcry from people all across the commonwealth and nation. Hopkins Countians are taking a stand by hosting a rally today to bring awareness to the case.
The “Justice for Breonna” protest rally is scheduled to begin today at 6 p.m. at the Judicial Building after weather-related delays. According to rally organizers, the demonstration is intended to raise awareness about the killing of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department and offer support for the justice movement.
“We’d like to show state-wide solidarity and support to the organized protests that have been going on in Louisville up to this point, as well as across the country, and let them know that they have the utmost support from Madisonville, Hopkins County and Western Kentucky,” said Bill McReynolds, president of the African American Coalition of Hopkins County.
The rally will be from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and feature key speakers from the members of the coalition, which organized the demonstration. Private citizens are also encouraged to speak up during the demonstration, McReynolds said.
According to McReynolds, the coalition organized this rally in support of the current protest movement in Louisville, which is currently requesting criminal justice for Breonna Taylor’s case.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove in March, according to coverage from the New York Times.
The plainclothed officers entered Taylor’s apartment in the middle of the night to execute a no-knock search warrant. Gunfire was exchanged between police officers and Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he believed the officers were intruders at the time. During the exchange, Taylor was shot eight times, reports state.
Following an investigation, Officer Hankison was formally fired in June and was accused of violating the LMPD’s policy on use of deadly force by LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder. Louisville has also since banned the use of the no-knock policy by the LMPD. No criminal charges have been filed against the police officers, and Taylor’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LMPD.
According to McReynolds, Taylor’s case has not received enough attention from the public and the discrepancy in media coverage is possibly linked to her gender.
“Whenever an African American female is killed by the public or someone in law enforcement, it just doesn’t draw quite the same level of attention as compared to African American males, especially when it comes to the national spotlight,” McReynolds said. “But black women and black girls, they matter too.”
While the coalition has previously led demonstrations and marches against police brutality, Taylor’s case feels more personal due to its proximity, McReynolds said.
There will be a police presence at the rally to ensure the safety of citizens, Madisonville Police Department Public Information Officer Maj. Andy Rush said.
“Our main job is the utmost security of the citizens of Madisonville, and so we want to provide a safe environment for them to peacefully protest,” Rush said.
According to Rush, the MPD has provided security for several demonstrations, regardless of topic, to support citizens exercising free speech.
While a full squad of police officers will still perform their routine patrol duties today, additional officers will be stationed around the Judicial Building to promote safety at the demonstration.
Out of all the demonstrations held in Madisonville, there have been no incidents threatening the safety of citizens, according to Rush.
One of the reasons that MPD has been successful in maintaining a positive relationship with minority communities is that the department didn’t “wait until incidents started happening” before reaching out to local leaders and citizen groups, Rush said.
The positive relationship is the result of years of open dialogue, according to Rush.
“We’ve done a lot of work to try to foster that relationship and make sure that we have this open line of communication and I really, really think that is what made us so successful in our open dialogue and open communication with different groups across the county,” Rush said.
Prior to demonstrations taking place, the African American Coalition of Hopkins County reaches out to the MPD to lend in-person assistance, according to McReynolds.
The demonstration was initially planned for last week, but the coalition decided to postpone it out of concerns for the weather, McReynolds said.
“(Today), we expect beautiful weather. It should be ideal for having a protest rally outside,” McReynolds said. “Hopefully it’ll give those who weren’t able to make it last weekend a chance to come and support. We just want our voices to be heard from Western Kentucky.”
Given that COVID-19 is still a concern in the community, McReynolds highly encourages those coming to wear facial coverings.
The “Justice for Breonna” protest rally has attracted county and state attention. According to McReynolds, a television station in Louisville has called the coalition for more information and 46 citizens have said they are interested in attending on Facebook.
“I know that we cannot bring Breonna back, but we will continue to say her name, even here in Madisonville. We just won’t be satisfied until we see justice in this case,” McReynolds said. “We will not stop until it stops.”