Hannah Drake has lost track of how many nights she has protested on the streets of Louisville demanding justice for Breonna Taylor.
The 44-year-old poet and writer was tear-gassed at least twice, she says. When she wasn’t protesting, she wrote about Taylor and posted prolifically on social media.
Drake and her partner, Keturah Herron, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, campaigned to ban the “no-knock” warrant, which is believed to be what police used to enter the apartment Taylor shared with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. In June, the ban, “Breonna’s Law,” passed in the Louisville Metro Council.
On Wednesday afternoon, Drake was again at Louisville’s Jefferson Square Park — where many demonstrations have been held — but her voice sounded hollow.
Drake arrived in the hours before the findings in Taylor’s case were announced: A grand jury handed down an indictment for one of the three Louisville police officers involved in her killing on March 13. Brett Hankison, a former detective, was charged with three counts of “wanton endangerment” in the first degree in connection to the night the 26-year-old emergency room technician was fatally shot.
In June, when Hankison was fired, the termination letter said he “wantonly and blindly” shot into Taylor’s apartment. But on Wednesday, the charges he faced were revealed to be for shooting recklessly into a neighboring apartment.
The other two officers involved that night, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were not charged at all.
“It’s expected, but highly disappointing,” Drake said.
According to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, officers did knock and announce themselves before entering the apartment, citing a “citizen” witness and implying a “no-knock warrant” was not used. He also called the officers’ use of force in firing shots “justified” because Walker fired a warning shot at police.
Walker, who said he didn’t know the people entering their home were police, fired his gun once at the officers, striking one in the leg. He was initially charged with the attempted murder of a police officer, but charges were later dropped.
The officers fired back with 32 shots. Taylor was struck six times.
“The charges that were given for wanton endangerment were for shooting [at] somebody else’s apartment. Not even her apartment. Not even killing her. Not even the fact that they shot at her, but a neighbor’s apartment,” Drake said. “Even in death, she finds no justice.”
For Drake, Taylor’s case falls into the all-too-familiar scenario of Black women being dismissed by society. “The city of Louisville and the country failed her,” she says.
“Every system that was set up in the city failed Breonna Taylor. … This city has murdered Breonna Taylor every single day over and over,” Drake said.
Her feelings were echoed by civil rights leaders, protesters and activists who have been pushing prosecutors to charge the three police officers with murder, as well as enforce systemic police overhauls.
Wednesday’s announcement delivered a blow to these efforts.
As early as Monday, the Louisville Metro Police Department issued a state of emergency for the city ahead of the grand jury findings. After the ruling was announced, police clashed with protesters, arresting many after declaring an “unlawful assembly.” Armored vehicles were deployed, sharpshooters marked nearby rooftops, and police helicopters circled overhead, as reported by The Washington Post. Two officers were shot following the indictment, with a suspect in custody, authorities said.
Demonstrations followed around the country, including in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, D.C. and Philadelphia.
Tamika Mallory, co-founder of social justice organization Until Freedom, was approaching Jefferson Square Park to join the protest 30 minutes before the city’s 9 p.m. curfew when she spoke with The Lily.
“There were charges for the wall being shot,” Mallory said. “It was such a slap in the face.”
She also decried the way Taylor’s family was treated.
“The mere fact that Breonna’s family was asked to go all the way to Frankfort — an hour away — and they drove there to get that news, knowing that their attorney asked the attorney general’s office more than once not to have them go to Frankfort if there were not going to be charges against the officers for Breonna Taylor — and they had them go there anyway,” said Mallory, who has been in contact with Taylor’s family.
Other women felt frustrated with the systemic racism on display in the judicial system.
“Our lives still don’t matter and today we got more evidence of that,” said Sadiqa N. Reynolds, president and chief executive of the Louisville Urban League. “Black people have never sought revenge, we only wanted justice. America has failed us again.”
Drake said she feels unsettled both as a Black woman and as the mother of a 24-year-old daughter, also named Brianna.
“I have to look at her and tell her that here in this city, your life clearly does not matter. That this city has said it is okay for the police to go in the home of a 26-year-old Black woman and murder her,” Drake said.