Over 200 protesters took to the streets of downtown Athens — extensively interrupting Friday evening’s vehicle traffic — in response to the court verdict in the police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a Black woman.
Taylor was fatally shot after three Louisville, Kentucky police officers broke into her apartment while executing a no-knock warrant in March.
Earlier this week, a grand jury charged one of the officers with three counts of wanton endangerment for the shots he fired into the neighboring apartment’s wall. The other two officers were not indicted.
“It hurt me. It really hurt me. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe the walls got justice before she did. They charged for the shots they missed, not the ones they hit,” student protest organizer Joshua Stinson said to The Red & Black. “So we had to try to band together and try to show something, because what else are we supposed to do?”
Stinson and other organizers weren’t operating as an organization or group, he said. The students made a list of demands for the Athens-Clarke County government and the University of Georgia administration, which includes calling for UGA President Jere Morehead’s resignation and shifting resources and funding away from the ACC Police Department and toward community resources.
The protesters spent the majority of the two-hour demonstration standing on the concrete median strip in front of the UGA Arch loudly shouting chants and holding signs calling for racial justice and marching around the downtown area in front of several cars and passersby.
Upon seeing some white, college-age students riding in the back of a pick-up truck that had stopped moving due to the congested traffic, protester Quin Thomas approached the group and attempted to get them to say Breonna Taylor’s name. Thomas said the group wouldn’t say her name.
“They [were] giving looks and recording [the protest]. You could tell they were not taking it as seriously,” Thomas, a third-year political science major said. “Can you not even say her name?”
The crowd marched to the UGA Chapel and took a knee in a moment of silence for Taylor and other victims of police brutality. Stinson invited protesters to speak to the crowd, prompting District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker to address the protesters.
“The system that we currently have could never bring justice for Breonna Taylor,” Parker said. “Even if they were to send those men to jail for the rest of their lives, it would not stop it from happening again. And so we must demand not just reform, but replacement of the system we have today.”
On the Chapel steps, Stinson announced to the crowd that organizers are hosting another protest next week and hoped it would generate a larger turnout. He implored the audience to invite friends to the next protest, which will take place on Milledge Avenue.
Arianna Mbunwe, a third-year political science major, said she was sadly unsurprised by Taylor’s verdict but glad that people came out to protest against it.
“I’m kind of disappointed more white allies didn’t show up for us. It’s the same white people who show up every time, and I’m thankful for that,” Mbumwe said. “But I wish more people would have come out, and I can’t wait to see people out [on] Milledge next week.”