‘My heart is heavy’: Philly reacts to lack of charges in Breonna Taylor’s killing

Protesters occupy Market Street in front of City Hall.

Protesters occupy Market Street in front of City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Anger, frustration and sadness over the decision not to charge Kentucky police officers for Breonna Taylor’s killing poured into America’s streets yesterday as protesters bemoaned a criminal justice system they say is built to fail Black people.

Activists, celebrities and everyday Americans have been calling for charges since Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was fatally shot by white officers during a narcotics investigation in March. Taylor was shot eight times. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a warning shot when police burst in. He may have hit one of the officers, thinking they were intruders.

The officers had a no-knock warrant but the investigation claims they announced themselves before entering, said state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican and the state’s first Black top prosecutor. No-knock warrants have since been banned in a new Louisville law named for Taylor.

A grand jury returned three charges of wanton endangerment Wednesday against Officer Brett Hankison, who was fired in June, over shooting into a home next to Taylor’s with people inside. No charges were filed against Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, the other officers present. Both remain on administrative reassignment. No one was directly charged with Taylor’s killing.

Hundreds of demonstrators chanted Taylor’s name and marched in cities across the U.S. in the wake of the grand jury decision. In Philadelphia, a few hundred protesters rallied at City Hall.

Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor and owner of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books, lamented the attorney general’s handling of the case, criticizing Cameron’s characterization that outside “celebrities and influencers” will try to tell Kentuckians how to feel.

“I’m listening to the people INSIDE Kentucky,” Lamont Hill tweeted. “They knew Cameron has no interest in justice. They know the truth.”

Members of City Council also weighed in on the verdict.

“My heart is heavy,” Councilmember Kendra Brooks tweeted. “We have failed Breonna Taylor and her family again.”

“To be a Black woman in America is to carry the weight of generations of oppression and hardship in your body,” Brooks said, stressing the inability to obtain justice in a system that’s broken.

Councilmember At-Large Katherine Gilmore Richardson echoed a similar sentiment, posting a graphic of an oft-recited 1962 quote from Malcolm X:

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a North Philadelphia native, addressed the lack of charges in a tweet.

“Breonna Taylor was murdered in her sleep and they charged one officer,” Kenyatta wrote. “Not for that murder, but for injuring a wall next door. Make that make sense?”

The Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, which works to end cash bail and pretrial detention in Philly, expressed dismay, but not shock, over the grand jury decision.

“We are enraged and saddened,” Philadelphia Community Bail Fund wrote, “but we are not surprised,” adding that it plans to keep fighting.

As protesters marched through Center City, several activist groups were quick to direct supporters to local legal defense and bailout funds, in addition to community bail funds in Louisville.

Philly We Rise, a local activist group, tied the events in Louisville to Philly’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, and its aversion to recent City Council reforms that would increase transparency in the contract negotiation process.


“In Louisville police can kill sleeping women with impunity,” Philly We Rise wrote, “in Philly police unions say [City Council] demanding transparency into a contract that devours 15% of our city funds in a budget crisis are ‘headline hunting political charlatans.’”

“Millions have spoken,” the group added. “Defund the police.”

Gwen Snyder, a grassroots movement strategist, put the mood on the ground simply: “Philly is with Louisville tonight.”

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WHYY News staff and the Associated Press contributed reporting.

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