Two police officers were shot in Lousiville amid protests over the announcement that three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor would not be charged for her death.
Both sustained non-life-threatening injuries, said Robert Schroeder, the chief of the Louisville Metro police department, at a briefing on Wednesday evening. One of the officers was undergoing surgery, while a second is “alert and stable”, and a suspect was in custody, he said.
While protests in the city turned tense as the day went on and police attempted to disperse protesters, the demonstrations throughout the day were largely peaceful. As the afternoon wore on, police in protective gear clashed with the growing number of protesters and used batons to push some of them down. Officers detained at least four people, who sat on the ground with their wrists bound behind them.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets throughout the evening in more than a dozen cities from coast to coast. In Washington DC, a group of hundreds gathered at Black Lives Matter Plaza in direct view of the White House. Marchers chanted “no justice, no peace” as cars honked in support.
In New York, a massive crowd gathered outside the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, kneeling in honor of Taylor. Crowds were also seen in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Indianapolis, while protesters in Atlanta shouted, “Say her name! Breonna Taylor!” Protesters in Dallas chanted, “We’re young, we’re strong, we’re marching all night long!”
Protests in Louisville began shortly after the decision was announced, with protesters still out on the street as the city’s 9pm curfew approached. Tensions between demonstrators and police increased throughout the night.
Officers fired flash bangs and a few small fires burned in a square that’s been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of the curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville. Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear, urged people to return home.
Schroeder did not offer details about whether that suspect who shot two officers had been participating in the demonstrations. He says the officers were shot after investigating reports of gunfire at an intersection where there was a large crowd.
Wednesday’s demonstrations come in response to the long-awaited decision by a grand jury about whether the officers involved in the death of Taylor, who was shot in her apartment in Lousiville on 13 March by white police officers who were serving a so-called “no-knock” warrant”, would be punished.
Her death sparked months of protests in the city, and her name became a rallying cry at nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice and policing. Numerous high profile figures, including the Democratic nominee Joe Biden, had called for criminal charges against the police officers who were involved in the raid.
The grand jury did charge one of the officers, Brett Hankison, with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots that went into another home with people inside. But jurors didn’t indict any of the officers on charges directly related to Taylor’s death.
At a press conference, Donald Trump praised the handling of the case by Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, saying he was doing a “fantastic job” and adding: “Justice is … not easy”. He later tweeted that he was praying for the two police officers that were shot.
Meanwhile, Biden tweeted: “Even amidst the profound grief & anger today’s decision generated, violence is never & can never be the answer. Those who engage in it must be held accountable. Jill & I are keeping the officers shot tonight in Louisville in our prayers. We wish them both a swift & full recovery.”
Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, also called for police reforms in the wake of Wednesday’s decision, saying the country should start by addressing excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling no-knock warrants.
“We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants,” Harris tweeted.
Louisville had declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the announcement; streets in the downtown were cleared of cars and many businesses were boarded up well ahead of the announcement.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive”, and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” immediately took to the streets following the news.
“Yes, it’s a bit extreme right now,” said Dekevion Gause, who sat beside a park memorial to Taylor made of flowers, paintings, and tiny grave markers representing Black people killed by police. “But it’s a volcano built up and now it’s exploded.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.