In Louisville, Breonna Taylor’s family honors her legacy

A march through city streets
Tamika Palmer (center), the mother of Breonna Taylor, leads a march through the streets of downtown Louisville on Saturday -- the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor's fatal shooting by police in Louisville, Ky.
Timothy D. Easley | AP

On the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by police, the slain Black woman's family continued their call for justice as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Louisville on Saturday.

“Eyes are on Louisville, Kentucky, today so let's show America what community looks like,” said Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin, who wore her niece’s emergency medical technician jacket.

Austin spoke from a stage set up in Jefferson Square Park, which became an impromptu hub for protesters during months of demonstrations last summer. Flanked by two hand-painted murals of Taylor, activists repeated calls to charge the police officers who killed the Black woman during a raid at her apartment. She was not the target of the raid.

The crowd shouted Taylor's name and “No justice, no peace” as they gathered near an outdoor memorial that includes a mural, posters, artwork and other mementos honoring Taylor's life.

Taylor’s family then led the protesters on an afternoon march past City Hall.

A march through city streets
Hundreds of people take part in a memorial march for Breonna Taylor near Jefferson Square Park on Saturday in Louisville, Ky. Saturday marked one year since Taylor was killed in her apartment during a botched no-knock raid executed by police.
Jon Cherry | Getty Images

In a tweet Saturday, President Joe Biden called Taylor's death “a tragedy, a blow to her family, her community, and America."

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“As we continue to mourn her, we must press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress. I remain committed to signing a landmark reform bill into law,” he wrote.

The rally came a day after Kenneth Walker, Taylor's boyfriend, filed a federal lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department, alleging his constitutional rights were violated during last year's botched raid, news outlets reported. Walker last year filed an ongoing state lawsuit against the city and police, saying he was the victim of assault, battery, false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Taylor’s front door was breached by Louisville officers as part of a drug raid in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020. Walker fired his gun once, saying later that he feared an intruder was entering the apartment. One officer was struck, and he and two other officers fired 32 shots into the apartment, striking Taylor five times.

Taylor’s death initially flew under the media radar, as the COVID-19 crisis shut down society, but George Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the release of a chilling 911 call from Walker in late May sparked interest in the case.

A grand jury indicted one officer on wanton endangerment charges in September for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment, but no officers were charged in connection with Taylor's death.

Police had a no-knock warrant but said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, a claim some witnesses have disputed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.

A Kentucky judge last week signed an order permanently closing a criminal case against Walker for firing at the officer.

Walker referenced the closure of the case against him during Saturday's rally.

“I gotta say that’s a nice start, but that’s not where we finish," Walker said. "We’ve got to keep going."

Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, did not speak publicly at the rally, but she told NPR member station WFPL in Louisville on Friday that "there's been no justice" for her daughter's death.

"There's no police accountability, so it'll be another time next year that we'll be back in the same position," she said in the interview.

Some speakers Saturday also criticized a bill going through the Kentucky state legislature that would make it a crime to insult or taunt police officers.

That bill comes after protests in Louisville and across the country last year erupted in the wake of the deaths of Taylor, Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, called the legislation "the shut the hell up and take it bill." She told the crowd at Jefferson Square Park that the gathering was about "justice."

"This is a movement," Reynolds said. "We are standing in Louisville, but across the country people are standing."

Demonstrator Olivia Alexander said the anniversary of Taylor's death reminded her to continue to work for racial justice, despite some setbacks in the past year.

“As we’ve seen, there’s not been any justice for Breonna Taylor, and a lot of the other brutal killings of Black Americans, so holding onto hope has been the most important thing,” Alexander said.

An ongoing federal investigation could be wide ranging and is regarded by many as the last chance for justice for Taylor’s death.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, tweeted a statement in support of Taylor's family, including her mother, Tamika Palmer.

“Today we remember Breonna Taylor, her tragic and unnecessary loss and the immense work we have ahead of us,” he said. "I will never understand the unimaginable grief of Tamika Palmer and other family and loved ones, but I am committed to listening and working with others to be build a more suitable and fair commonwealth for every Kentuckian.”

NPR contributed to this report.