‘We Simply Want To Be Allowed to Live’

‘We Simply Want To Be Allowed to Live’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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From activists to the halls of power in Washington DC, more were speaking out against the grand jury decision that left no charges related to the death of Breonna Taylor of Louisville Ky.

Meanwhile, national leaders from civil rights activist and media personality Rev. Al Sharpton, to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for continued protests to be non-violent.

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman who was working as an EMT and was asleep in her apartment sleeping with her boyfriend in the middle of the night March 13, when a band of plainclothes police officers entered her apartment on what’s called a “no-knock warrant,” which means that the police don’t have to announce themselves.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker– fearing a criminal home invasion–fired his legally owned firearm at the officers. The officers returned fire, hitting Taylor eight times, killing her.

The police were in Taylor’s apartment seeking her ex-boyfriend in connection with a low-level and non-violent narcotics investigation. The ex-boyfriend wasn’t even present in Taylor’s apartment at the time.

Since Taylor’s death, her family sued the city of Louisville. The suit was settled with the city paying the family $12 million and ending the practice of no-knock warrants.

However, activists and others nationwide had their eyes back on Louisville this week as a grand jury returned indictments in the shooting. However, the grand jury chose to indict a single cop, charging former officer Brett Hankinson with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, a Class D felony in the state, for shooting into a neighboring apartment.

No charges were returned related to Taylor’s death, sparking protests in Louisville and elsewhere in the United States.

“First thought is to give sympathy again to Breonna’s family and her mother. The second is to continue to promote for the protesters’ non-violent protests and to condemn with great affirmation any shooting of law enforcement, any violence at all,” said Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Black Texas Democrat who also serves on the House Judiciary Committee. “Having said that, it is shameful what came out of the attorney general’s office and the grand jury, not because of grand jurors, because we know prosecutors craft their own narrative.”

Biden, specifically, was asked by the press if he thought justice had been served.

“I’m reluctant to comment. I don’t know the detail of what the judgement was. But I do know that it’s important that justice be served. I have to see precisely what has happened,” the former vice president said. “What I did hear on the way here on the radio that there may be people protesting. One thing I want to make clear: Protesting makes a lot of sense, and it’s clear people should be able to speak, but no violence. No violence.

“My heart goes out to Breonna Taylor’s mom. The last thing she need is to see violence in the streets. So protest peacefully, no violence. And I’ll be able to comment when I know more about the details of what the decision was because I haven’t been able to hear it,” Biden added.

Sharpton, a well-known Black activist and media personality, also called for all protests to remain non-violent.

“My message to the protesters and many of them I worked with, is a continued protest but keeping it nonviolent. You do not want to become like the people we’re fighting, and also, turn your pain into power, vote,” he said. “You ought to have a voter movement against [Republican Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell right there in Kentucky and that would send a message. It won’t bring justice, it will send a message.

“As far as where we see the grand jury minutes, I think that with Ben Crump on it, I never rule out what Ben Crump is able to do,” Sharpton added, referring to the nationally known civil rights attorney who has been representing the Taylor family. “I call him the attorney general for black America. I think he’ll stay on it, and who knows whether or not we get success with him.”

Brittany Packnett-Cunningham, an activist and member of President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, criticized Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s talk of due process as it relates just to the officers involved in Taylor’s killing.

“I mean the hypocrisy is so thick I can’t even see straight. He continued to talk about these officers being innocent until proven guilty. There was no due process for Breonna Taylor,” Packnett-Cunningham said. “He continued to talk about not seeking justice through violence, but that kind of behavior, that kind of violence, justice-seeking, is precisely what brought us to this moment, not at the hands of black people, not at the hands of Breonna Taylor or Kenneth Walker, but at the hands of the police. None of this would be happening if the police would stop killing us. The hypocrisy extends all across this case.

“You know, Kenneth Walker tried to employ the Castle Doctrine and stand his ground and protect his home. ‘Two A’ enthusiasts and the [National Rifle Association] should be all over this in defense of Kenneth Walker, because he maintains outside alongside 10 of his neighbors that the police did not announce themselves and he maintains it so much he called 911,” she added. “And if you think the police are at the door, you don’t call 911 because the police are 911. So here he is firing one shot, one single shot through the door to defend and protect his home, and yet the very people who believe that is the right of every American are not speaking up on Breonna Taylor’s behalf or Kenneth Walker’s behalf. The hypocrisy in this conversation is so deep.

“But what I know unfortunately know to be true is that folks who not do believe in the humanity of Black people, don’t care if they’re hypocritical. And so that’s why we have to expand this conversation beyond any single detail of any single case. Not because they don’t matter to the conversation, but because every time this happens, we obsess over details as if there are enough details to make America finally believe that black folks are worthy of living. The details did nothing for Tamir Rice, they did nothing for Aiyana Jones who was asleep on a couch, they didn’t nothing for Walter Scott when we saw on video he was running away. And they certainly didn’t do anything for Breonna Taylor,” Packnett-Cunningham said, citing other victims of police killings of Black Americans. “The details never seem to be enough to treat our lives as valuable by a system that has a foundation based on our labor and not our humanity. The demand is simple: Stop killing us. We know that black victims will never be perfect enough for this system. We simply, simply want to be allowed to live, to rest, and to thrive.”

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