Demonstration at Art Museum honors Breonna Taylor

Black Lives Matter protesters gathered on the steps of the Art Museum Saturday to hear from organizers of Black radical groups. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Black Lives Matter protesters gathered on the steps of the Art Museum Saturday to hear from organizers of Black radical groups. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A crowd of a few hundred people rallied at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps Saturday in another demonstration over the police killing of Louisville resident Breonna Taylor.

The gathering, which organizers described as  “Fists Up! Fight Back! Rally & Teach In,” was one of several in the Philadelphia region since a grand jury failed to indict any of the officers in connection with Taylor’s death. The rally was organized by the Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matter and the Black Philly Radical Collective.

Krystal Strong is an organizer with BLM Philly. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“We represent the radical organizing community in the city, and we’ve come together because we want to organize with you and we want to invite you to organize with us,” the day’s first speaker, Krystal Strong of BLM Philly, said. “We’re gonna have a teach-in because there are things we need to know to strengthen in our organizing work. What we see all over this country is when we rise up, the system tries to suppress that … tries to personalize that, and so we have to be more secure in our organizing work, we have to be more principled in our organizing work, we have to consider how we protect each other and protect in each other in our organizing work.”

Black Lives Matter Philly protested on the steps of the Art Museum Saturday, demanding justice for Black people killed by police. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“Let us be grounded in one of the many reasons we are here today: to honor the life of Breonna Taylor,” Strong said. “To do what is necessary to create a world where it is impossible to kill Breonna Taylor in her sleep. … To channel our anger, our rage that she is no longer with us into the action today, we invite you to put your fists up for Breonna, and we’re gonna have a moment of silence and respect and love for Breonna Taylor.”

Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville police at her home during an attempted narcotics raid in March that ultimately yielded no drug evidence. Only one of the officers that fired into the home, Brett Hankison, was charged —  with the crime of wanton endangerment, for firing shots that passed through Taylor’s walls and struck an adjacent apartment building.

Adam Northam, brother of Joel Northam, a protester arrested in Denver, and charged with multiple felonies, asks for donations to his defense fund. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In addition to honoring Taylor with a moment of silence, organizers of the Art Museum rally said they have these demands: that the police officers involved in Taylor’s killing be fired; that the police department in Louisville be divested of funding; that the mayor of Louisville resign; that police end the use of force; that a police-civilian control board be formed and that tapes from the grand jury be released.

Details of the chaos and confusion during the raid that resulted in the death of Taylor, 26, were revealed in 15 hours of audio recordings released Friday. They contained testimony and recorded interviews presented last month to the Kentucky grand jury that decided not to charge any Louisville police officers for killing Taylor.

According to the Associated Press, the tapes revealed that the police officer who fatally shot Breonna Taylor described seeing only “shadowy mass” and said he didn’t recall firing the 16 bullets later matched to his gun. As she lay bleeding, Taylor’s boyfriend called his mother before dialing 911. And neighbors roused by the gunfire at Taylor’s apartment after midnight on March 13 only added to conflicting testimony about whether police serving a narcotics warrant announced themselves before using a battering ram to break down her door.

Mike Africa Jr. confessed to the crowd that he’s never voted, because he never met a politician that he felt could deliver justice. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“Breonna Taylor, we will fight like our lives depend on it, because they do,” a speaker said. “Mike Africa Jr., of MOVE, addressing the crowd, said the system is unreformable, pointing to the presidential candidates: “one has COVID, the other has dementia.

Black Lives Matter speakers critiqued voting, calling voter registration drives a waste of time, designed to divert time and energy.

Sonya Clarke, a Northeast Philadelphia passerby who joined the crowd, said, “I’m from South America, I came here when I was 14. If I start voting at the age of 18 and I never missed. I voted, I think it’s a privilege. I think it’s important.  It’s how you put people in power to get those same people to start doing what they’re supposed to do in power.

“How can you come up here and tell me about social justice … when you don’t put things on paper?” she said, “I don’t want to hear it. I started to leave, but I thought, you’re not gonna take my power, I’m gonna stay.”

Philadelphia police on bikes ride to get ahead of protesters marching ahead of them. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Though she said her outlook, being from South America, was different from Americans’, Clarke said she understood what was beneath the recent protests.

“I think as I’m getting older, I’m becoming more aware what is going on … In my country, we have different races, but we never look at each other as black and white, who has more power. But since Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, it’s like scary,” Clarke said. 

“I have a son who’s 22. I have to tell him, ‘Be careful, you know, you have a BMW (which I bought him),  you’re a Black man, you’re young, don’t play your music.’ He couldn’t understand, it broke my heart. … and it’s sad. … I understand when they say Black lives matter, because it’s not taken seriously. You saw all that happened to George Floyd on TV. … How could a human being do something like that to someone?”

But Clarke said she doesn’t believe in defunding the police. “We may need to educate them, have classes, background checks. They’re out here, they protecting us now, what if someone has a gun? I think put money into educating the police, definitely more training.”

Protesters took to the streets Saturday, demanding justice for Black people killed by police. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

About an hour into the demonstration, the crowd took to the streets. 

John, a Philadelphia human resources professional who asked that his last name not be used, said he follows the Black Lives Matter movement fully on social media.

“I wanted to come out to show my support and learn some of the things that they’re gonna teach this afternoon,” he said, adding that the organizers of Saturday’s rally are doing a lot of work to end police violence against unarmed Black people.

Nicole Wilson (center) and her daughters Danielle Wilson (right) and Raquel Olivo joined a Black Lives Matter protest at the Philadelphia Art Museum. They said they were concerned about low voter turnout, especially in local elections. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

When asked what kind of criminal justice reform was needed, John said, “I’d like to see the end to the qualified immunity that aids and abets police in crimes against Black people and corruption.”

“Breonna Taylor was a victim of police violence and her killers are not being held accountable. … You have the state attorney general [Daniel] Cameron through the grand jury [prosecuting] for property owners rather than for the murder of Breonna. It’s an injustice. I don’t understand how the people in Kentucky can put up with it?”

Gabe Bryant talks to protesters about protest security during a rally on Saturday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In Philadelphia, John said, “as someone who has participated in a half a dozen marches, I’ve witnessed police use an excessive force against the protesters. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Mayor Kenney, they only reacted to the debacle that happened on I-676 after the New York Times. They showed a lack of initiative of leaders to reform police misconduct.”

He said he thinks Outlaw should resign, or that Kenney should terminate her because “she’s not qualified, she hasn’t done her job.”

“If Kenney wanted her to repeat what she did in Portland, then that’s fine, don’t go out to the media and talk like you want reform if you didn’t hire reformers.

Protesters gathered on the Ben Franklin Parkway to hear from Black organizers in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

At Logan Square, the rally morphed into “teach in.” Organizers invited participants to sit in on open air workshops about how to organize protests, gun rights, first aid, and more.

The first workshop, on organizing protests, lasted about 40 minutes. A second dealt with first-aid topics.

About 3:30, as the afternoon event was wrapping up, the marchers draped a banner over Interstate 676, a reminder of what motivated the day’s activities.

Black Lives Matter Philly protesters hung a banner from 19th and Vine streets calling for justice for Breonna Taylor. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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