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Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor

How to continue demanding justice for Breonna Taylor

Protests have been reignited by a grand jury decision to not directly charge the police officers involved in Taylor’s death

Earlier this week (September 23) a grand jury decided not to directly charge the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician who was shot and killed in her own home by Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department on March 13. 

The police were intending to raid a ‘drug house’ more than 10 miles away when they burst into the wrong property and fired 22 shots at Taylor. Her case subsequently became a central element of the global Black Lives Matter protests, which were sparked following the murder of George Floyd on May 25. Thousands of placards at the protests urged people to remember her name, while her posthumous portrait featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, and celebrities including Beyoncé, Jordan PeeleAva DuVernay, and Cardi B have used their platforms to demand justice.

Now, although Hankison was charged for the narcotics raid that resulted in Taylor’s death, it was for “wanton endangerment” – a low-level felony punishable by one to five years in prison – for shooting into a neighbouring apartment. No criminal charges were brought against Mattingly or Cosgrove, and no homicide charges were issued. 

In the wake of the verdict, protests have erupted in cities across the US, with activists once again demanding justice for Taylor, chanting, “Say her name, Breonna Taylor”, and, “No justice, no peace”. Amid the demonstrations, authorities have fired chemical agents at protesters, two police officers have been shot – suffering non-life-threatening injuries – and vehicles have been driven through protests in Denver and Los Angeles, luckily resulting in no casualties.

As the fight for justice rages on, there are several ways you can help. Dazed outlines a few below.

JOIN PROTESTS

Protesters have taken to the streets in Los Angeles, New York, and several other US cities since the announcement of Wednesday‘s verdict. In Louisville itself, over 1000 demonstrators have defied a second night of citywide curfew, highlighting the inadequacy of the decision and calling for more transparency from the grand jury proceedings.

If you plan to attend a protest in person, the best way to ensure you’re supporting a legitimate and unified cause is by following the lead of organisations such as Black Lives Matter (and its local divisions on social media). As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote in an Instagram post about safe protests back in May, grassroots organisers “have been at this a long time and are disciplined in the ropes of community organizing and demonstration”.

To stay safe while protesting, it’s also a good idea to protest with a friend or ‘buddy’ who you can stick with if separated from the larger crowd, and to take along supplies to deal with tear gas or provide first aid to other protesters. In terms of protecting yourself from surveillance, encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp are also useful. Signal, in particular, allows you to lock your messages with a PIN number, meaning if police force you to open your phone – which they have the legal powers to do – your messages will stay protected.

While the most recent protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor remain inside the US, her name was chanted alongside the names of victims of police brutality during BLM protests earlier this year, as they quickly spread from Minnesota (where Floyd was murdered) and other cities across the US, to the rest of the world.

Despite claims that these demonstrations would lead to a spike in coronavirus cases – a study has since concluded that they’ve had “no measurable impact” – data suggests that up to 26 million people took part in the US alone, making it the biggest movement in US history.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT ABOLITION

Calls to abolish or defund the police have been rallying cries at BLM demonstrations this year, leading the Minneapolis city council to vote to disband its police department entirely and start afresh back in June (before, predictably, facing legal setbacks). However, the meaning behind the terms remains controversial and difficult to pin down, ranging from the redistribution of some police resources, to a first step towards full abolition.

“I feel that it is worthwhile to have some advocate for completely eliminating the institution and then recreating something that is deemed to be more just and humane,” says political scientist Christian Davenport, speaking to Vox about what abolition actually means. In the same article, other academics and activists make the case for rebuilding the institution from the ground up, pointing out that its foundations lie in slavery, segregation, and white supremacy.

The 8 to Abolition campaign offers further information on police abolition, explaining its ties to the prison and military industial complex, and outlining eight steps towards abolition, including defunding the police, demilitarising communities, and providing safe and accessible housing.

For others, however, defunding the police is a more realistic aim. Instead of abolishing the police entirely, this position advocates reducing their budgets (which have increased significantly in the last few decades) and redistributing the money into community services – such as housing, employment, health, and education – instead. Below, Angela Davis explains why she doesn’t think this kind of reform is enough.

SHARE RESOURCES ONLINE

There are plenty of resources out there to help people educate themselves on racial injustice, from films and podcasts to seminal writing from the likes of Audre Lorde and Angela Davis – some of which are included in Dazed’s list of anti-racism resources.

While these address larger issues related to race, policing, and abolition, more immediate commentary on specific injustices, such as the case of Breonna Taylor, can be found via social media. Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to be an Antiracist, shares regular updates on the fight for Black equality, while organisations such as Showing Up For Racial Justice (@ShowUp4RJ) provide advice and information specifically aimed at non-Black allies.

Viral anti-racism graphics have also been doing the rounds on Instagram since the murder of George Floyd, providing clear information and step-by-step guides on how to take action in a meaningful way – though the creators of such graphics are careful to point out that they aren’t a replacement for vital Black voices.

When it comes to being an effective ally, it’s also important to think twice before sharing certain material – such as violent footage of police brutality – due to the effect it might have on those viewing it. As Kemi Alemoru writes in an article for gal-dem: “We’re now in 2020, and Black people already know about brutality and oppression. It’s this fact that forces the question of whether creating a spectacle out of Black death is for Black people, who are already familiar with the evils of racism, or whether it is to make white people see the white supremacy they ignore.”

DONATE FUNDS

If you’re among a group more vulnerable during the pandemic, or simply don’t live close enough to attend a demonstration in person, there are still ways you can provide support for those that are there. Amid the protests in Louisville, for example, the Louisville Community Bail Fund is helping provide funds to pay bail for activists who have been arrested.

An official GoFundMe for Breonna Taylor, meanwhile, is raising funds for police reform, as well as providing scholarships for people who want to pursue a career as an Emergency Medical Technician or a Registered Nurse through a foundation set up in Taylor’s name, having far exceeded its $500,000 goal since it was set up back in June.

Donating to initiatives such as The Bail Project can also help activists across the country, or you can split your donation between over 70 bail funds – including Louisville fund, the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, and the Mississippi Bail Fund Collectivehere.

Earlier this year, Kanye West was among the celebrities that provided aid for the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot while jogging in February this year. West’s $2 million donation was intended to cover the families’ legal fees, as well as college tuition for Gianna Floyd, the six-year-old daughter of Floyd.

SIGN PETITIONS

A months-long petition calling for justice for Breonna Taylor is still running, helping to push for charges against the police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor, and for policy such as a full ban on “no-knock” warrants.

A direct petition to ban “no-knock” warrants nationwide has also reached almost 40,000 signatures, while others call for the removal of monuments celebrating racist figures or the introduction of a more diverse curriculum.

Petitions set up to campaign against the arrest and imprisonment of racial justice activists such as Tianna Arata – a 20-year-old activist facing up to 15 years in prison for a peaceful protest – offer another way to support protesters, while Black Lives Matter has started an official petition that calls for a national defunding of the police, allowing you to pledge your support for the change.