Demonstrations held Friday night saw hundreds of protestors come out in response to the shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro Police Department officers.
While initially peaceful, the event quickly turned into a spree of vandalism and police standoffs that lasted until early Saturday morning.
Many protests made sure to wear face masks both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and a number of activists set up stations to hand out free food, water, and masks.
Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville, blamed “out-of-towners and anarchists” for the violence in a tweet announcing that the National Guard will be sent in to control demonstrations on Saturday.
“Just this morning, Breonna’s family called for peaceful and safe protest,” Fischer said in a press release early Saturday. “Violence does not bring our city closer to the truth in her case. No one stands up for justice and equality by smashing windows and burning property.”
The death of Bronna Taylor, a Louisville native and EMT worker, sparked the protests in Louisville after she was shot by LMPD officers in her home during a no-knock warrant search.
Officers entered the home of Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker, 27, on the night of March 13. Upon entrance, Walker opened fire on officers. Police returned fire with 20 shots, hitting Taylor 8 times. Walker was taken into custody.
The family is currently suing the LMPD, claiming that officers wore plain clothes, did not announce themselves, and were actually looking for a suspect who was already in custody and did not live at that residence.
A 911 phone call placed by Walker after shots were exchanged corroborates the claim that Walker was unaware that the intruders were officers.
Along with Taylor, the death of George Floyd sparked tensions nationwide after cell phone footage emerged of officers using an unapproved technique to hold Floyd down, resulting in his death.
Demonstrations in Louisville have been ongoing since Thursday, with the epicenter usually falling around Jefferson Square Park in front of City Hall. A second group formed around the NuLu area before spreading out through the city.
After 9:30 pm, riot police began to fill the streets in an attempt to disperse the increasingly agitated crowds that continued to grow throughout the day.
Tear gas, flashbangs and pepper balls were shot into crowds regularly through the night after vandalism began at the Louisville Hall of Justice.
An attempt to burn the facility down was quickly stopped by police. Windows were smashed and the city, state, and national flags that flew outside were taken down and burned.
WAVE 3 News reporter Kaitlin Rust was shot by pepper balls while reporting live, resulting in widespread condemnation of the act on social media and a response from Jessie Halladay with the LMPD about the incident.
“There was a lot going on last night, and to be fair to both the officer and to Kaitlin, we need to take a deeper look at what happened and what prompted that action,” Halladay said in a press briefing Friday night. “So we have said that we will do that and if there needs to be discipline we will address it.”
Halladay did not release information regarding the identity of the officer who shot Rust.
Ken Selvaggi, WAVE 3 News General Manager, released a statement in response to the incident condemning the actions of the LMPD and defended the news crew.
“We strongly condemn the actions of the LMPD officer who tonight repeatedly fired at and hit our reporter and cameraman, both of whom were courageously and lawfully covering breaking news in their community,” Selvaggi said. “There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”
Fourth Street saw heavy vandalism throughout the night. Looters robbed a T-Mobile store, set barrels of bourbon on fire along with a confederate flag and smashed the windows of most storefronts in the area.
The LMPD and Mayor Fischer drew criticism from business owners along Fourth Street who felt the lack of police presence in the area was a significant contributor to the damage.
David McGuire, owner of The Craft Gallery and Mercantile on Fourth Street, told WFPL that he hadn’t seen any police protecting the area.
Protests are still ongoing despite Mayor Fischer’s dusk-till-dawn curfew order for Saturday night.
News reporter Michael J. Collins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michael on Twitter at @MJCollinsNews.