University groups protest in W. Philly seeking justice for Breonna Taylor

Drexel Community for Justice and Penn Community for Justice called Friday’s march after Kentucky’s attorney general decided not to charge anyone for Taylor’s killing.

Protesters march up 33rd Street in Philadelphia’s University City chanting “Justice for Breonna Taylor.” (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Protesters march up 33rd Street in Philadelphia’s University City chanting “Justice for Breonna Taylor.” (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated 10:05 p.m.

For a third consecutive evening, people gathered in Philadelphia to express anger and dismay over the Kentucky attorney general’s decision not to prosecute white Louisville police officers for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in March.

Friday evening’s protest in University City was organized by the anti-racist groups Drexel Community for Justice and Penn Community for Justice.

Sam Pride speaks while protesters gather in the streets at 33rd and Market in Philadelphia, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor and demanding Drexel and Penn Universities defund their police. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Several hundred people turned out at 33rd and Market streets, blocking traffic at the intersection.

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“Say her name!” speaker Sam Pride exhorted the crowd in a call-and-response.

“Breonna Taylor!”

“Breonna Taylor was 27 years old when she was murdered by police. Two hundred days saying Breonna Taylor’s name. The last time I convened with Drexel University students, it was on Breonna Taylor’s birthday. Put a fist in the air if you were there for Breonna Taylor’s birthday. Why are we still needing to take these streets to get her justice? Say her name.”

“Breonna Taylor!” the crowd shouted.

“Black lives matter!” Pride said.

“Black lives matter!”

“Her life matters!”

“Her life matters!”

“No justice!” Pride said.

“No peace!” the crowd responded.

Drexel engineering student Tianna Williams, president of the school’s Black Action Committee, said police do not protect the Black community.

“The data shows that they don’t protect us. What we really want them to do is quit their jobs and work towards building a public safety system that actually works,” Williams said.

Penn student Christian Cross said the continued police killings of Black people will only stop after police are abolished.

“The police system was inherently racist, inherently criminal. There’s no way to change it. It’s just to defund,” she said, adding that social workers, mental health professionals and others can be trained to provide public safety.

About 6:30 p.m., the marchers, 250 to 300 strong, headed up to Drexel Park in Powelton, where they held a vigil for Taylor. After a moment of silence, they laid flowers in front of a memorial.

Protesters held a moment of silence for Breonna Taylor at Drexel Park in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As speeches continued at the park, one person addressing the crowd maintained that justice would be served when police are defunded and abolished.

Shortly before 7:30, candles were lit in Taylor’s memory, and the crowd began to disperse.

In Kentucky, criticism from Taylor’s family

Earlier Friday, Taylor’s family and their lawyers sharply criticized Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron for failing to bring charges against police officers in her death. They called on him to release the transcripts of the grand jury proceeding in the case while vowing to continue their protests until the officers are charged. The family is also seeking release of all body camera footage and police files.

Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, said in a statement read by a relative to a gathering in Louisville that she did not expect justice from Cameron.

Palmer said the justice system failed her daughter, an emergency room technician whom police shot and killed in her own apartment. She said Cameron was not up to the job of achieving justice for Taylor, who was 26 when she died.

“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron to begin with,” Palmer said, via the statement read aloud by her sister and Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin. As Austin spoke, Palmer stood by, weeping. She said that Cameron is too inexperienced and had failed her daughter by shifting responsibility to a grand jury.

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“I was reassured Wednesday of why I have no faith in the legal system, in the police, in the law,” Palmer said through her sister. “They are not made to protect us Black and brown people.”

A spokesperson for Cameron said prosecutors and grand jury members are bound by the facts.

Protesters light candles to remember Breonna Taylor at Drexel Park in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The only current or former officer who is facing criminal charges related to police bursting into Taylor’s home in the middle of the night is Brett Hankison, who was fired from the police force in June. He faces three counts of wanton endangerment related to shooting into apartments adjacent to Taylor’s.

Though Hankinson has been indicted, no action has been taken against Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, both of whom also opened fire that night. An FBI analysis concluded Cosgrove fired the shots that killed Taylor, Cameron said on Wednesday.

Cameron said his office determined that Mattingly and Cosgrove “were justified in their use of force,” because they had first been fired upon by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. But Benjamin Crump, one of the family’s attorneys, noted that Walker has said he was acting in self-defense.

No one has been charged for firing the bullets that struck and killed Taylor. In Crump’s interpretation, the indictment punishes one officer for missing a Black body — but it forgives others for shooting Taylor. Crump urged the prosecutor to make the transcripts public, so people can see if anyone was present at the grand jury proceedings to give a voice to Taylor.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has also called for Cameron to release what evidence he can.

Protesters demanding justice for Breonna Taylor light candles at Drexel Park in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The FBI is still investigating whether Taylor’s civil rights were violated, and some have put their hope in that probe, but the burden of proof for such cases is very high.

Across the country, many have taken to the streets in protest of Cameron’s announcement. Louisville has seen 120 days of protests over Taylor’s death – and the limited indictment set off new demonstrations and street marches. Police arrested 127 people Wednesday night, the most since protests began.

Friday night, the Associated Press reported, police in Louisville blocked the route of a protest march and warned demonstrators they could face arrest for unlawful assembly. Marchers began turning around after encountering police with riot gear.

The marchers were headed through Louisville’s downtown when they came upon police lined up at an underpass. Associated Press journalists in Louisville saw, and video showed, flash bang devices being fired by authorities. Amid some confusion, marchers pulled back but seemed to remain peaceful.

Some protest leaders pleaded with the marchers to take the sidewalk and return to their cars. People began scattering, dispersing in different directions. There were no immediate signs of any arrests being made.

During Thursday’s protests, State Rep. Attica Scott, her daughter Ashanti and 22 other protesters were arrested, public radio station WFPL reported. Scott, who is the only Black woman serving in Kentucky’s legislature, was arrested as police were surrounding the First Unitarian Church on Fourth Street, the station reported.

Louisville will remain under a nighttime curfew through the weekend. It runs from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. the following morning.

This article contains reporting by NPR and the Associated Press.

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