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Activists mark the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s killing with demands for justice

Activists gathered in Louisville, and called for police reform.

About 100 people stand in a circle; in the middle are signs with messages like “Protect Black Children” and “Change Corrupt Police” along with dozens of bouquets. In the foreground, a Black protester whose back is to the camera raises a fist.
Supporters gather in Louisville, Kentucky to honor Breonna Taylor — and to demand police reform.
Jeffrey Dean/AFP/Getty Images

The one-year anniversary of the police killing of Breonna Taylor was on Saturday, and activists, lawmakers, and Taylor’s family spent it by renewing calls for criminal justice reform.

In Louisville, Kentucky, members of Taylor’s family and community activists convened a rally to mark the anniversary of Taylor’s death and to call for accountability for the officers involved in her shooting. Hundreds of demonstrators chanted Taylor’s name, reportedly shouting, “You can’t stop the revolution.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was killed in her home in Louisville on March 13, 2020, after three white police officers forced entry into her home using a “no-knock” warrant as part of a narcotics raid, looking for a suspect who no longer resided at Taylor’s address.

Officers opened fire after Taylor’s boyfriend — a legal gun owner who said he did not know the people forcing their way into the apartment were police — fired one shot in self-defense. Taylor was shot six times and killed.

Taylor — along with George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis about two months later — became an emblem of the racialized and excessively violent nature of law enforcement in the US. Her name, and the chant “Say her name,” were rallying cries at protests that swept across the United States in the summer of 2020 and triggered a broader cultural reckoning with racism in American life.

While the city of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family in September 2020, none of the officers involved in the botched raid were charged with her death. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, initially faced an attempted murder charge for the shot he fired the night of her death, which is believed to have hit an officer in the leg. Those charges were dropped in May 2020, but only permanently dismissed last Monday.

Taylor’s family — and Democratic lawmakers — are calling for reforms

On Friday Walker filed a lawsuit against the Louisville city government and the police officers in the raid, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated — and that the warrant to enter the house was based on false claims.

And Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, has filed an internal affairs complaint against six officers in the Louisville Metro Police Department.

“We believe a thorough investigation of these allegations will expose the rotten underbelly of a rogue police division and the lengths that investigators went to protect the officers,” Palmer’s attorney, Sam Aguiar, told CNN. “And when it does, LMPD needs to show that it will clean house, get Tamika Palmer the answers she’s been owed for a year and honor the oaths sworn to protect our citizens.”

Palmer recently spoke with WLKY, Louisville’s CBS station, and expressed frustration with where matters stand one year later.

“Not to say all officers are bad, but there’s no accountability,” Palmer said. “So, [police] don’t feel like they have to change their actions or their behaviors.”

Many Democratic lawmakers echoed Palmer’s sentiment Saturday, marking the occasion by calling for police reform.

Freshman lawmaker Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who was a Black Lives Matter organizer in and around Ferguson, Missouri, before entering Congress, tweeted, “Today marks 365 days of injustice. Breonna Taylor’s murder was an injustice. The ensuing cover-up was an injustice.”

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, “Today marks one year since Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by police executing a no-knock warrant. Breonna Taylor and her family deserve justice. It is past time for comprehensive policing reform. We are working to pass the Justice In Policing Act in the Senate.”

President Joe Biden also advocated for the passage of that bill, writing, “As we continue to mourn [Taylor], we must press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress.”

The Democratic-controlled House passed the Justice in Policing Act for the second time in early March, and it contains a number of provisions aimed at reforming policing at the federal level, ranging from ending qualified immunity (a practice that protects police officers from lawsuits) to banning the sorts of no-knock drug warrants that led to Taylor’s death.

When the House passed the bill in 2020, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take it up, advocating instead for a GOP-crafted plan that proposed more limited reforms. Democrats now control the Senate, and leaders including Schumer have signaled optimism about passing the bill. However, the Democratic caucus would need 10 Republican senators to vote for the Justice in Policing Act in order for it to reach Biden’s desk. Thus far, there has been no indication that many Republicans might be willing to do so.

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