Activists urge action on police accountability at Philly vigil for Breonna Taylor

People gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia to hold a vigil for Breonna Taylor on Oct. 1, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

People gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia to hold a vigil for Breonna Taylor on Oct. 1, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated 9:57 p.m.

Philadelphians are not done talking about Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman from Louisville who was fatally shot in her apartment by police while they were executing a “no-knock” search warrant in the middle of the night.

On Thursday night, roughly 150 people gathered at Malcolm X Park for a candlelight vigil.

This week marked more than 200 days since Taylor was killed on March 13 and attendees say they are not done saying Taylor’s name.

“We want to remember her life. We demand accountability for the officers who killed her and were then rewarded with paid time off — funded by the very citizens they were sworn to protect,” read the Facebook invitation to the vigil.

People gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia to hold a vigil for Breonna Taylor on Oct. 1, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Qawyyah Powers, a 16-year-old member of the Philadelphia Student Union, said Taylor’s case is just another example of the kind of overpowering by police she experiences every day.

“None of us know or knew Breonna, but any Black woman standing here could have been Breonna Taylor,” said Melissa Robbins, a local activist and former City Council candidate. “We don’t feel safe. America has never given us a reason to feel safe … being hunted for being you.”

Adiah Hicks, 27, with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said taxpayer dollars that fund law enforcement are going to a “terrorist organization.”

“We spent a while summer fighting for life … Our lives are worth so much more than this,” she said.

Many of the details surrounding Taylor’s death have sparked outrage, including why police were conducting a raid on Taylor’s apartment in the first place. Taylor had broken up with ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, who had a history of drug trafficking. Glover was the target of the narcotics investigation that sent officers to Taylor and others’ doors that night to execute search warrants.

Questions about whether police properly identified themselves have also drawn scrutiny. When police arrived at Taylor’s apartment and used a battering ram to get in, her current boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot at the front door, thinking they were intruders, injuring one. The officers fired back, fatally shooting Taylor.

And while police rushed to get their injured colleague help, Taylor went 20 minutes without any medical attention, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

Still, perhaps no detail has fueled protests, including here in Philadelphia, more than the failure to charge the officers who fired into her apartment and killed her.

People gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia to mark over 200 days since 26 year-old Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Louisville. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Despite months of demonstrations from coast to coast where people used Taylor’s case as a rallying cry for major police reform, a Kentucky grand jury did not charge officers Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly or Myles Cosgrove with Taylor’s death.

The only charges announced were against Hankison — three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly shooting through blinds into a neighboring apartment.

Hankison was the only one of the three officers to be fired. His colleagues remain on administrative duty while an internal investigation takes place. Protesters say the men need to be fired.

At Thursday’s vigil, Robbins said some of the white allies who’ve taken part in Black Lives Matter protests are as much a threat to Black people as law enforcement by reinforcing or creating barriers to jobs and the economy.

Robbins and others told the crowd marching was not enough and encouraged people to get organized — not just for the presidential election, but for local elections that determine who will be the next state attorney general, local district attorney and mayor.

“You want to honor Breonna Taylor? Honor her by being bold, honor her by being brave, honor her by showing Black lives matter,” she said.

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