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Breonna Taylor protests over Kentucky Derby 2020 weekend in Louisville


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After a four-month delay, the 146th Kentucky Derby will be run Saturday. And though the event will be without spectators, the horses, jockeys and trainers will be far from alone in Louisville.

Throughout the day, marches and rallies are expected downtown and outside Churchill Downs, where the horse race will be run in the evening.

Along with demonstrations by local protesters, who are demanding justice for Breonna Taylor and said they want the Derby canceled, the NFAC (Not F***ing Around Coalition), a Black militia, plans to hold a formation. And a “patriotic event” is planned for the morning by an online personality known as “The Angry Viking” and his supporters.

The Courier Journal will continually provide you updates on the protests throughout Saturday. Make sure to check back to this article and courierjournal.com regularly.

A “patriots” began marching downtown to the courthouse after gatherin gathered in a parking lot near Louisville Slugger Field for a march downtown. 

100 days of protests: Moments that have shaped the Breonna Taylor movement

More: Protest planned during Derby seeks to amplify Breonna Taylor message

1 p.m. — Shouting between Breonna Taylor protesters and ‘patriotic’ group

As an armed group of self-described “patriots” arrived in downtown Louisville, they were greeted by a group of Breonna Taylor protesters, with some armed, chanting “say her name: Breonna Taylor.” 

The armed group, which had met earlier at Cox Park, responded by chanting “back the blue” and “U-S-A.”

Groups exchanged heated words with one another, but there appears to have been no major physical altercations so far.

“The Angry Viking,” an online personality who is leading the “patriotic” group, told Breonna Taylor protesters he does not oppose them.

Rather, he said the group is there because of when Grand Master Jay, the leader of Black militia NFAC, said in July that he would “burn the city to the ground” if justice was not delivered for Breonna Taylor.

There appeared to be little police presence.

12:35 p.m. — Police activity causes Churchill Downs to close entry gate

Churchill Downs is taking safety precautions following a police situation in the area, according to Louisville Metro Police Department spokesman Lamont Washington said.

“There is an active police situation near the backside to the track,” Washington said. “Because of that Churchill is taking additional precautions.”

Washington declined to provide further detail when asked.

Courier Journal reporters at the scene said there is major police presence and that Churchill Downs has closed its entry gates.

12:20 p.m. — Group begins march to courthouse

An armed group of “patriots” began marching to the downtown courthouse after gathering in a parking lot outside Louisville Slugger Field.

Meanwhile, Louisville Metro Police were blocking off Jefferson Street both ways near Jefferson Square Park. There was a small group of demonstrators already there, heavily armed.

Dump trucks were being used to block off Jefferson from Fifth to Sixth streets.

11:30 a.m. — The Angry Viking and supporters move to downtown Louisville

Following a rally at Cox Park in the morning, online personality “The Angry Viking” and self-identified armed “patriots” started moving toward downtown Louisville.

The group headed to a parking lot across from Louisville Slugger Field, where they will then march to the downtown courthouse.

Louisville DSA, the city’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, called for people to come to downtown Louisville to support Breonna Taylor protesters.

“Far-right militias are in Louisville today to threaten #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor protesters,” the organization wrote in a tweet Saturday morning. “Stand with us in solidarity with the movement at Injustice Square Park. Bring supplies, bring a friend, bring yourselves. Keep fighting until justice comes.”

11: a.m. — Man comes to Angry Viking rally with sign: ‘Louisville does not need your guns’

During the “patriotic event” planned by an online personality known as “The Angry Viking” at Cox Park, a man came in with a sign that expressed disapproval of the group’s weapons.

“Louisville does not need your guns. We do not want your guns,” the sign read.

Tension flared, as leaders at the event said to leave the protester alone. He was surrounded by people and eventually ushered away.

“I don’t want to see my town go up in flames,” said the man, who identified himself as Bob to LEX 18 television station in an interview.

10: 30 a.m. — Louisville mayor repeats: Do not listen to ‘rumors & misinformation’

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer warned people not to believe everything they hear when it comes to protests on Saturday, saying there has been a plethora of “rumors” and “misinformation.”

“Since protests began, we’ve seen rumors & misinformation circulating on social media, causing unnecessary worry,” Fischer said. “@LMPD has a plan and is ready for Kentucky Derby day.”

Fischer linked to a web page titled “Information about the Kentucky Derby and protests.” The release says the city “fully supports First Amendment rights and expects peaceful protests.”

“If activities become unlawful, LMPD has plans in place and is prepared to handle the situation,” the page said.

10 a.m. — Daniel Cameron chimes in on Derby protests

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron took to Twitter Saturday morning to say he recognizes protesters want “answers in the investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor.”

“Today, while we honor a KY tradition with the running of the Derby, we remain cognizant of the community’s desire for answers in the investigation into the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor,” Cameron wrote in a tweet. “We continue to move forward with our investigation, reviewing each fact to reach the truth.”

For 101-straight days, protesters have been demanding that Cameron criminally charge the three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Taylor, an unarmed Black woman killed inside her own apartment on March 13.

9:15 a.m. — Angry Viking says people have to ‘take a stand’ at rally

An online personality known as “The Angry Viking” kicked off a rally at Cox Park off River Road.

He said the group is in Louisville because they love this county, and that they have been falsely labeled as racists.

The crowd broke out into “USA” chants early on.

“You’re being called white supremacists. You’re being called an extremist group,” he said. “But nothing could be further from the truth.”

“When the history books are rewritten… we’re going to be on the right side of this,” he continued. “… If this stuff comes to your backyard, you’ve got to take a stand.”

8:30 a.m. — Angry Viking ‘patriotic event’ crowd gathers, as does another militia group

Roughly 200 people have gathered at Cox Park for a “patriotic event” planned by an online personality known as “The Angry Viking” and his supporters.

Rally attendees came decked with American and President Donald Trump flags as well as camouflage attire. Many were armed with guns, too.

At this moment, it is unclear what their plans are. “The Angry Viking” previously said in a video that rally attendees would carpool to a different location after first gathering at Cox Park.

Meanwhile, a few dozen members of the “National Patriotic Defense Team” militia reached downtown Louisville, according to Ford Fischer, the co-founder of Washington D.C.-based online media outlet News2Share.

The group put orange tape armbands around themselves and was instructed not to wear camouflage attire to differentiate themselves from other militias, according to Fischer. One member came with what others called his “battle van,” which has barbed wire on the front and around his belongings in the back, Fischer wrote in a tweet. 

“We’re here to back the law enforcement up,” said Tara Brandau, the group’s leader. “We’re here to try to protect everybody.”

2:45 a.m. — Making some noise outside Churchill Downs

A group of fewer than 10 people, with a car accompanying them, walked on Longfield Avenue near the backside of Churchill Downs early Saturday, chanting “Breonna Taylor” and “No justice. No peace,” among other messages.

Their goal appeared to be a simple one: Make noise about Taylor’s case and perhaps cause some residents of the neighborhood to receive a sudden wake-up call.

One person banged on what appeared in the early morning darkness to be a cowbell, while others used a megaphone to set off siren sounds.

Roughly 15 minutes after first appearing, the group left the area in several cars with blaring horns.

Several Louisville Metro Police cruisers soon appeared on Longfield before speeding off in several directions.

Chatter on a police scanner revealed conversations among officers about how they had not found any protesters by Churchill.

A ShotSpotter call had also earned their attention, leaving Longfield quiet once again.

Friday

8:30 p.m. — LMPD officers retreat

After asking crowds to leave the streets at Sixth and Jefferson, Louisville Police officers moved back to the corner across from the park. 

Among the protesters was John “Grandmaster Jay” Johnson, the leader of the Not F*cking Around Coalition, a Black militia. Johnson previously announced his group would come to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. 

Johnson briefly spoke to the crowd, and an argument broke out that appeared to be about some local protesters, who have been in the streets for the last 100 days, being opposed to the NFAC bringing guns to the park. 

Background: Black militia NFAC returning to Louisville on Kentucky Derby Day, says ‘Grandmaster Jay’

8 p.m. — Crowd back at Jefferson Square Park

The crowd of marchers arrived back at Jefferson Square Park around 8 p.m., at which time a group knelt, lifted their fists in the air and chanted“Breway,” “I love being Black” and others. 

Shortly thereafter, LMPD officers arrived at Sixth and Jefferson to ask protesters to get out of the road.

7:15 — Crowd arrives at Kentucky Derby Festival office 

About 150 people converged on the Kentucky Derby Festival office on Third Street in downtown Louisville. Several cried “No justice, no Derby.” 

The crowd then moved south on Third Street when some police arrived after a police-free evening and headed back to Jefferson Square Park, called by many protesters Injustice Square Park. Along the way they passed several police officers at intersections. 

6:30 p.m. — March begins 

Starting at Sixth and Jefferson, about 100 people headed out on a march, like they’ve done over and over during the last 100 days. First on Fourth Street and then on Broadway, they waved signs and flags in the air. 

As the protesters got ready for the march, they sang songs, danced and chanted “we stand strong. We stand tall. We refuse to see another one fall.”

6 p.m.  — “These are our war dead.” 

Just before 6 p.m., Courier Journal reporter Bailey Loosemore reported on Twitter that artist Deanna Rushing placed 90 markers around the Breonna Taylor memorial, bearing various names of people who’ve been killed by police since 2014. 

“These are our war dead,” Rushing said. 

Earlier, a protester held up a Derby-related sign at the park. “Breonna’s Law,” “Defund the police” and “end cash bail” were printed next to scratched-out Derby horses Tiz the Law, Money Moves and Storm the Court. 

2:45 p.m. — “The mayor is not stepping up.”

About 50 people sat beneath trees, played music and paid their respects at Taylor’s memorial mid-afternoon, as they awaited a march planned later in the day.

One man sold shirts from his car, bearing the words 100 Days of Resistance, while others set up a charcoal grill.

Anna Harrison sat at a table where she’s spent dozens of days serving food to protesters.

The movement here has been “spectacular,” she said, but the protests should have been able to end long ago.

“The mayor is not stepping up and doing his job. Daniel Cameron is not stepping up and doing his job,” Harrison said. “…(But) people keep marching. They’re not giving up, they’re not backing down. They’re on a mission. And their mission is not gonna be completed until they get the justice that Breonna deserves.”

1:20 p.m. — Louisville mayor says ‘rumors and misinformation’ are circling about protests

Shortly after a press conference from the Louisville Metro Police Department, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer took to social media to encourage people to “stick to the facts.”

“We know rumors & misinformation are circulating about protests on Saturday during the Kentucky Derby,” Fischer wrote in a tweet. “Let’s please stick to the facts. @LMPD has a plan & is ready to protect public safety while respecting 1st Amendment rights to peacefully protest.”

During the LMPD press conference, Assistant Chief of Police LaVita Chavous said there have been rumors about protesters’ intentions as well as rumors of police’s presence and tactics at Churchill Downs. She refuted all rumors.

1 p.m. — LMPD slams ‘rumors’ of increased fencing, tanks at Churchill Downs

During a press conference, Assistant Chief of Louisville Metro Police LaVita Chavous said that the law enforcement presence at Churchill Downs is no different than in years past — rejecting claims made at Until Freedom’s press conference earlier in the day.

Speakers at the social justice organization’s press briefing alleged that the city had installed excessive fencing around the track, as well as brought in military tanks to respond to planned demonstrations ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

Chavous said during the police press conference that there have been rumors of planned carjackings and actions by protesters, and that those rumors are “meant to instill fear and division.”

She also said that, on the law enforcement side, the installation of fences is not a tactic meant to suppress protests — as speakers at the Until Freedom event suggested — but is something they do every year for crowd control and management for the Kentucky Derby.

Speakers at the Until Freedom press conference also decried the deployment of military tanks, but Chavous said that there are no tanks — just armored vehicles to manage potentially dangerous incidents and “for safety of everyone.”

“We do this every year, in, we prepare days in advance and what you see is evident in that preparation,” Chavous said.

11 a.m. — Until Freedom decries military, law enforcement presence outside track

In a press conference hosted by social justice organization Until Freedom near Churchill Downs, speakers delivered rebukes of the Kentucky Derby and the militarization of Louisville as Humvees and police stood behind them beyond a fence.

Timothy Findley, a pastor at Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center and the founder of the Justice and Freedom Coalition, said there has been a “continued pattern of meeting peaceful protesters, with over-militarization with provocation and a continued stoking of fear.”

“I would remind everyone listening, that there have been 100 days of protesting,” Findley said. “The first two days were difficult days. 98 days have been peaceful. All of the talk of looting, all of the talk of rioting, all of the talk of violence — it has not happened.”

Tamika Mallory, a co-founder of Until Freedom, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has created “slave-like circumstances” for protests.

“We are not slaves. We got out of cages a long time ago, Mayor Fischer,” Mallory said. “… What we believe it should mean to stand as a Democratic mayor is that you do not support slavery. But that’s what it looks like when you demand that nonviolent protesters be caged up so that horses can run for the entertainment of the rich and famous.

“Meanwhile, the body and the blood of Breonna Taylor is on your hands.”

Read this: Louisville Democrats say politics motivate GOP’s ‘law-and-order’ push on crime and unrest

Speakers reminded people that there will be a mass demonstration at South Central Park starting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Speakers led chants of “no justice, no Derby” throughout the press conference.

Contact Ben Tobin at bjtobin@gannett.com and 502-377-5675 or follow on Twitter @TobinBen. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: subscribe.courier-journal.com.n

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