LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Looking to defuse tensions in Louisville over the fatal shooting of a Black woman by police who broke down her door, the victim’s mother on Friday called on protesters to continue demanding justice but to do it in “the right way without hurting each other.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear read the statement from Breonna Taylor’s mother hours after gunshots erupted, wounding at least seven people, during protests late Thursday outside City Hall. At least one person was in critical condition, Louisville Metro Police said early Friday.
“No officers discharged their service weapons,” and all seven shot were civilians, police spokesman Sgt. Lamont Washington wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
In her statement, Tamika Palmer said her daughter — an emergency medical technician — devoted her life to others, and the “last thing she’d want right now is any more violence.”
“Please keep saying her name,” her statement said. “Please keep demanding justice and accountability, but let’s do it the right way without hurting each other. We can and we will make some real change here. Now is the time. Let’s make it happen, but safely.”
Beshear, speaking on CNN, said the protest started peacefully but some people later “instigated and caused some actions that turned it into something that it should not have been.”
The Democratic governor also called on President Donald Trump to retract a tweet in which he threatened to take military action to bring Minneapolis “under control.” The president, reacting to the torching of a Minneapolis police station by protesters outraged by the death of a Black man in police custody, warned that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“I hope the president will retract that statement,” Beshear said. “During these times we can condemn violence while also trying to listen, to understand, to know that there is deep frustration, rightfully so, in our country. That there has not been enough action on creating equality, of opportunity and in health care. And in a time of this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s laid bare all of that.”
Beshear added that elected officials have “a responsibility, not just to maintain the peace, which is what we ought to be doing, but to also listen, to show empathy, to try to find a way to move in the right direction, not the wrong one.”
Louisville’s mayor also called for peace as he said two of the wounded from the gunfire in his city underwent surgery while five were in good condition.
“I feel the community’s frustration, the anger, the fear, but tonight’s violence and destruction is not the way to solve it,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a video posted to Twitter.
Thursday night’s demonstration came as protesters across the country, in cities including Los Angeles, Denver, New York and Memphis, turned out in alliance with demonstrators in Minneapolis, where George Floyd became the latest Black man to die in police custody.
The protests quickly followed the release of a 911 call Taylor’s boyfriend made on March 13, moments after the 26-year-old EMT was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door. No drugs were found in the home.
Around 500 to 600 demonstrators marched through the Kentucky city’s downtown streets, the Courier Journal reported. The protests continued for more than six hours, ending in the early hours of Friday as rain poured down.
At one point, protesters took turns hoisting the stone hand of King Louis XVI after it was broken off his statue outside City Hall. Shots were later heard, prompting some of the protesters to scramble for safety.
“Understandably, emotions are high,” Fischer tweeted just before midnight, sharing a Facebook post that appealed for people to remain non-violent as they demand justice and accountability. “As Breonna’s mother says let’s be peaceful as we work toward truth and justice,” the mayor wrote.
Attention on Taylor’s death has intensified since her family sued the police department this month. The case has attracted national headlines alongside the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in a Georgia neighbourhood in February.
Around 12:20 a.m., Fischer tweeted a video he said was a message from Taylor’s family.
Meanwhile, live video from downtown Louisville around 12:30 a.m. showed some protesters behind makeshift wooden barricades, which appeared to be made out of picnic tables spray-painted with the words “You can’t kill us all.” A small fire inside a trash can was visible in the middle of the street.
Police in body armour and face shields held batons and lined up downtown. They appeared to fire rubber bullets and deploy tear gas canisters, fogging the air and inducing coughs among the remaining members of the crowd. Protesters recorded officers with their cellphones.
Kentuckians are still under social distancing mandates driven by the coronavirus pandemic. Many protesters wore masks.
Chants early Friday included “No justice, no peace” and “Whose streets? Our streets.”