Massive protests broke out across the United States late Wednesday following a grand jury's decision not to charge Louisville police officers for the March killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a verdict that Taylor's family and civil rights organizations decried as "outrageous" and "anything but justice."
In Louisville, Denver, New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and other cities, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in an outpouring of grief and anger after the grand jury examining Taylor's case indicted one former detective on three counts of "wanton endangerment" for recklessly firing shots into the young woman's apartment building—a decision that lets the two officers who shot Taylor six times off the hook. The three officers fired a total of 32 shots in Taylor's apartment, according to investigators.
"The whole damn system is guilty as hell," demonstrators in Milwaukee chanted as they marched down Interstate 94, temporarily blocking traffic. Police responded to the highway demonstration with tear gas.
Tawanna Gordon, Taylor's cousin, told the local Louisville Courier Journal that while she was not surprised by the grand jury's verdict, she is "mad as hell because nothing's changing."
"Today's decision was an additional injustice on our family and this country," said Gordon. "Until Americans start getting mad enough and speaking out and forcing legislators to change the laws for all races, nothing is going to change."
Unbelievable crowd for Breonna Taylor at Barclays Center in NYC right now. pic.twitter.com/fIbYRThn7c
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) September 23, 2020
— Hope Ford (@hope_iam) September 24, 2020
— Kristen Shamus (@KristenShamus) September 24, 2020
As protests kicked off around the nation Wednesday, President Donald Trump dodged a reporter's question about whether he believes the grand jury's decision was just and took the opportunity to praise himself.
"My message is that I love the Black community and I've done more for the Black community than any other president, and I say with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, and I mean that," the president said.
Trump later tweeted support for two police officers who were shot and wounded during demonstrations in Louisville late Wednesday.
Asked about the Breonna Taylor grand jury, Trump goes off on a tangent that he's "done more for the Black community" than any president since Abraham Lincoln.
Not only is the claim untrue, but Trump has continually embraced and espoused racism, including praise for neo-Nazis. pic.twitter.com/MsbdJUw8LD
— The American Independent (@AmerIndependent) September 23, 2020
Carl Takei, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, said in a statement Wednesday that the grand jury's "decision further highlights what was already obvious: To change these systems that routinely perpetuate egregious acts of violence against Black lives, elected officials must listen to the cries of those communities and make sweeping changes—including divestment from these broken institutions and reinvesting in non-police alternatives—so that Black people no longer fear being murdered in their own home."
"Today's charging decision," said Takei, "is the manifestation of what the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest police violence already know: Modern policing and our criminal legal system are rotten to the core."