On March 13th, the Louisville Metro Police executed a “no knock” warrant at the Kentucky home of Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. The exact events of the night have been hotly contested in and out of court, but the end result was that a young woman with a bright future lost her life, and the police who perpetrated the killing did not seem to be held accountable in any way.
In the months that followed, protests surrounding Breonna’s death and the deaths of women of color at the hands of police officers have rocked the country, even amidst the most serious pandemic of our time. Bolstered by the Black Lives Matter movement, and further aided by Kimberlé Crenshaw’s creation of the #SayHerName hashtag, Breonna’s story broke through to mainstream culture and gave America a new awareness about what racism looks like for women of color.
Although some progress has been made, like Louisville’s ban of “no knock” warrants in June and the dismissal of charges against Kenneth Walker, the work is far from over.
How do the recent reveals impact the justice campaign?
Three major things happened in the Breonna Taylor case recently: on September 15, the City of Louisville announced a $12 million “wrongful death” settlement with Breonna’s family. On September 23rd, it was announced that Brett Hankinson, one of the officers involved in the raid, was indicted on three counts of wrongful endangerment. And on October 2nd, around 15 hours of audio recordings from the grand journey proceedings were released to the public.
These are all important because they exhibit the sense of “too little, too late” that pervades the cases surrounding the murder of women of color.
As Josiah Williams put it on Twitter, “I’m sorry, I can’t ‘celebrate’ that this is the largest payout and settlement in response to the death of [a] Black woman’s family, as a result of police brutality. This moment in history will never be a celebratory one for me.”
In terms of the charges against Brett Hankison, the charges are for the shots Hankinson fired at the door and window of Breonna’s apartment building, not for the shots fired against Taylor herself. And in fact, “No officers were charged directly with Breonna Taylor’s death,” said CNN’s Dianne Gallagher in a September 23 Tweet. “A Kentucky Grand jury indicted one officer for shooting into the neighboring apartment. The 3 wanton endangerment charges against Hankison are for Breonna Taylor’s neighbors.”
Perhaps even more concerning, however, are the findings from the grand jury audio recordings, which reveal how unclear the LMPD still is about the exact events that took place on March 13th. According to a New York Times article, the recordings revealed disputes between the officers present and the official stories being told, including whether or not the officers announced their presence before attempting to knock down the door, recordings of the 911 calls made immediately following the shooting, and what exactly the officers saw in the apartment before opening fire. “At times, the jurors’ questions suggested they were skeptical of photos and videos they were being shown,” concluded the article.
There is a lot of frustration in our community following these announcements. It seems that despite the marches in the streets, despite the #SayHerName campaign that has elevated Breonna’s story as well as the stories of far too many other murdered women of color, and despite our best efforts to change the narrative, the players in the Breonna Taylor case are getting by without much of a reprimand. And more importantly, the issues at the root of this story — police brutality against people of color, particularly Black women and trans people — are flying by under the radar.
How can we keep this from happening again?
Activists and campaigners for the rights and safety of Black women and women of color are urging changes to police forces around the country, but specifically in Louisville. As outlined on JusticeForBreonna.com, the demands of the campaign include:
- Addressing the use of force by the LMPD at the government level, encouraging the Mayor and City Council to take action.
- Firing and revoking the pensions of the officers involved in Breonna’s death. The petitions include calls for arrest, criminal charges, and convictions for the officers as well.
- The creation and information provision of a local, independent civilian community police accountability council in Louisville (an action that has been echoed in other American cities, like Philadelphia).
- The creation and passage of policy for transparent investigation processes in cases of law enforcement misconduct.
- The elimination of “No Knock” warrants in Louisville and beyond.
The campaigners also called for two other goals that have since been met, the dropping of charges for Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, who tried to defend Breonna’s home when the officers forced entry, as well as the release of the 911 call Walker made from the home, so the public could hold the LMPD accountable.
What can feminist philanthropy do to help?
The website JusticeForBreonna.com offers a variety of ways individuals and organizations can get involved in the campaign in Breonna’s memory.
- Donate to the #LouisvilleBailFund, created to support people incarcerated while protesting Breonna’s death.
- Donate to the Justice For Breonna GoFundMe, which goes to Breonna’s family and the campaign for justice following her death.
- Sign the official petition, Justice for Breonna Taylor, which outlines the demands stated above.
- Support product launches that contribute to Breonna Taylor’s family, such as the Justice for Breonna Taylor tee shirt from Phenomenal.
- Commit to intersectional approaches in your personal and organizational philanthropy, as well as viewing your approaches through the lenses of gender and race.
- Make a donation in Breonna’s name, to organizations that support and elevate women and girls of color across the country and around the world, such as the Loveland Foundation, the Women’s Justice Initiative, Girls Opportunity Alliance, and Black Girl Freedom Fund. (For more funders in this space, check out the U.S. Funders for Gender Equality section of the PW Knowledgebase.)
At the end of the day, our efforts are only strong when we work together. As we gather to support the organizations and individuals fighting for black lives, we need to keep in perspective the collective spirit of feminist giving.
The work is far from over, but together, we can keep Breonna’s memory alive and honor her life by fighting against the systemic issues that led to her murder.
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