‘No justice or peace’: CT activists react to charges in Breonna Taylor killing
Staff and wire reports
Updated 9:46 pm EDT, Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Connecticut advocates expressed frustration and exhaustion Wednesday after a Kentucky grand jury decided Louisville police officers would not face charges for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in March.
Former Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment from the botched March 13 raid for having fired his weapon into Taylors’ neighbors homes.
“There is no justice or peace in today’s announcement from Kentucky, which is the latest example in our nation’s long history of denying that Black lives matter,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “It is a pattern that is all too familiar to Connecticut, where since 2001, prosecutors have investigated 81 police uses of deadly force and refused to pursue charges against police in all but two.”
Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor’s case became a major touchstone for the nationwide protests that have gripped the nation since May — drawing attention to entrenched racism and demanding police reform. Taylor’s image has been painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on T-shirts worn by celebrities.
The charges drew immediate sadness, frustration and anger that the grand jury did not go further. The wanton endangerment charges each carry a sentence of up to five years.
McGuire said Taylor should still be alive today, as should five people killed by police or who died in police custody in Connecticut this year.
The deaths include Jose Soto, 27, killed in a SWAT raid in Manchester; 57-year-old Edward Gendron, of Waterbury; Michael Gregory, 30, shot dead by police in Ansonia; Mubarak Soulemane, a 19-year-old shot by state police in West Haven; and Justin Griffin, 31, who died while in Milford police custody.
“To those protesting for justice for Breonna, Mubi, Jay, Stephen, and everyone killed and hurt by police across the country and in our state, we are with you,” McGuire said.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
“I would say that people in the community are reeling over this. It’s still very violent, and this is why we organize for change,” said Ala Ochumare, co-founder and community organizer for Black Lives Matter New Haven.
After months of waiting for the officer’s involved in Taylor’s killing to be charged, she described Wednesday’s announcement as “a slap in the face,” and said she’s exhausted by the news.
“A lot of people are pissed off. A lot of people are still trying to figure out exactly what the hell just happened,” she said.
Doris Dumas, president of the New Haven NAACP, used similar language to describe the grand jury decision.
“Sadly, I am not surprised, but it is shameful, and it’s more proof that there is no real value for the lives of black people. It is like Breonna Taylor’s life does not matter or have any value,” Dumas said.
She said people cannot allow for there to be “two justice systems.”
“Where is the justice? Breonna Taylor’s life matters, black lives matter, and we can’t stop fighting and demanding until we can get justice, equality and fair treatment,” Dumas said.
Wednesday evening, police in Louisville set off flashbang devices to clear a square after several hundred gathered to protest the decision.
Police announced the gathering was an “unlawful assembly,” fired the flashbangs and advanced in riot gear.
President Donald Trump offered praise for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron for his handling of the investigation, calling him “brilliant,” and said “he’s handling it every well.”
“It’ll all work out,” Trump said.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he has not received enough information to comment fully, but urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence. It’s totally inappropriate for that to happen,” Biden said. “She wouldn’t want it, nor would her mother, so I hope they do that.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson described Attorney General Cameron as patronizing, after 200 days of waiting for accountability and justice.
“One officer was charged for the wanton endangerment of others in connection to the death of Breonna Taylor, but nobody was charged for actually killing her,” Johnson said.
He called the announcement an “insult” to Taylor’s memory, and said the “unsubstantial” charges against Hankinson “are an attempt to placate the Black community.”
Danielle Wedderburn, a Bridgeport photographer who attended and photographed Black Lives Matter protests in the city in late May, said her initial reaction was anger.
“I’m still in awe of the final verdict that was given; a life was lost. Regardless of anything Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend were involved with, that still doesn’t justify her being wrongfully killed,” Wedderburn said Wednesday.
“We deserve the justice we seek when our brothers and sisters get gunned down in the streets. Otherwise, civil unrest will continue. Our people aren’t going to stop until we see the results we’re fighting for — inside and outside of Connecticut,” she added.
The case exposed the wide gulf between public opinion on justice for those who kill Black Americans, and the laws under which those officers are charged, which regularly favor working police and do not often result in steep criminal accusations.
At a news conference, state Attorney General Cameron spoke to that disconnect.
“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” Cameron told reporters after the charges were announced.
“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. And I’ve said that repeatedly. My mother, if something was to happen to me, would find it very hard,” he added, choking up.
But Cameron, who is the state’s first Black attorney general, said the officers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them. He added that Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering — and so did not execute the warrant as “no-knock,” according to the investigation.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” he said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming into the home and fired in self-defense.
Before charges were brought, Hankison was fired from the city’s police department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the white officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison had previously been placed on administrative reassignment, as were Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes.
On Sept. 15, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.
Jasmine Thomas, point guard for the Connecticut Sun, a professional basketball team, called the news “disappointing.”
Sun players have dedicated their season to social justice, printing Taylor’s name on the back of their jerseys. The Players Association and Social Justice Council plan to discuss more ways to use their platform.
“More should be done, it’s not enough,” Thomas said. “But we can’t just give up.”
Staff writers Peter Yankowski and Doug Bonjour and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Please join the Greater New Haven Branch of the NAACP for the
103rd Annual VIRTUAL Freedom Fund Event
Thursday, October 8, 2020, 7pm
The Honorable Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
United States Representative for New York
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Outraged Elders’ call for social justice on New Haven Green
by: Kent Pierce
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a different kind of social justice rally in New Haven. Around a hundred members of the area’s elderly population took to the green.
Usually, it is young people taking to the streets to speak their minds. Tuesday morning, however, it was a different looking group.
They called themselves the “Outraged Elders.” Its members are just as outraged about police brutality and racial inequality, but old enough to have seen it going on for decades, not just years.
“We’re standing against racism and demanding action,” said Greater New Haven NAACP president Dori Dumas.
There may not be as much marching at a rally like this, but there is just as much caring. Caring about no-knock warrants, like the kind used when Breonna Taylor was killed in March. Also caring about the use of dangerous police holds, like the one that resulted in the death of Geroge Floyd in May. Also caring about the police using military hardware, vehicles, and tactics.
“When we turn citizen into the enemy by militarizing the police, that creates a major problem,” said Dottie Green of the National Council of Negro Women.
They say solving the police problem means creating civilian police review boards. Not just creating them, but giving them subpoena power and more.
“They need to be independent from the police departments, have adequate authority, proper access to records and witnesses,” Dumas explained. “And the cooperation of the police chiefs, executives, officers, and other stakeholders.”
The”Outraged Elders,” are about more than just talk. They had a table where they were registering people to vote, and they are encouraging everyone to support police accountability legislation that will part of the upcoming special legislative session.
New Haven Police Chief: ‘Our Goal Should Be to Rid Our Communities of Police’
by Emily DiSalvo | Jun 23, 2020 5:00am
New Haven Police Chief Ontoniel Reyes said that the underlying issues of poverty and injustice in the community need to be addressed, but not with the police.
“Some people say to me, ‘You’re a cop; you’re almost talking against having more police,’” Reyes said. “Well yeah I am. Because the communities don’t need the police. If you want healthy communities, they are devoid of police.
Reyes and other community leaders spoke at a virtual forum, “Policing in This Current Age: A Conversation,” hosted by the Jewish Federation of New Haven, Reverend Stephen Cousin and Rep. Themis Klarides. Reyes focused his remarks on the problems that communities face that police cannot solve and in some cases, are exacerbated by police.
“Our goal should be to rid our communities of police,” Reyes said. “That’s how we know we have gotten somewhere, the question is, are we ready for that right now?”
Reyes, who grew up in New Haven, said that there is much less crime on the streets than when he was a little boy. But he noted that the amount of poverty has remained the same and in some cases increased.
“The social economic issues that are still making it difficult for people to come out and succeed, education issues, all these systemic issues — if we want to stop the prison pipeline and we continue to have a large presence of police in a community and you have you have a community that is impoverished with kids who resort to selling drugs, you’re going to have police arresting kids for selling drugs,” Reyes said.
Adding law enforcement to the equation creates a cycle that ultimately results in more arrests and more people in prison, and Reyes said the way to stop the cycle is to take a look at the role of police.
“Do we need to hire good cops?” Reyes asked. “Of course we do. Do we need to make sure that we have good community-police relations? Of course we do. But to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you put law enforcement out there to handle community issues, they see drug issues and they address it. But in the same breath we say we don’t want our kids going to jail for low-level drug offenses.”
Reyes’s comments followed a discussion between other leaders and activists about the idea of “defunding the police” which has risen in popularity in the wake of George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests.
Rev. Keith King of Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hamden said he is not in favor of defunding police.
“I think that is a term to suggest we don’t need the police,” King said. “There are times when people are committing crimes of violence when I think all of us would want someone with a firearm.”
He said the idea of defunding should not be so much about getting rid of the police as it is about determining the role of police alongside other professionals
“Are the police engaged in activities that other social professionals, other social services could handle?” King asked.
Issues like domestic abuse and traffic violations should not be handled by a police officer King said. For example, King suggested that it wouldn’t take an armed officer to deal with a counterfeit $20 bill, George Floyd’s simple infraction that started the movement.
Assistant Chief of Police at Yale University Anthony Campbell said there is a range of meanings for defunding the police, but he agrees that America needs police in some form.
“Funding for police and policing has to be reimagined and changed drastically,” Campbell said. “Many in the black community do not get the service that they should from the police. Some of that funding should go to social services, education but I also think it needs to be part of the educational process for anyone thinking of taking a police position.”
Police officers must learn about the history of policing in America and how this history still impacts policing today, Campbell said.
Students at Yale University, where Campbell works, have launched a petition to defund the Yale Police Department which has about 6,000 signatures.
Defunding the police is not a new term, but it has risen in as a rallying cry after several highly visible incidents of police brutality. Dori Dumas, present of the Greater New Haven Branch of the NAACP, said the phrase has so many different meanings for different people that it is important to have conversations about it with “everyone at the table.”
“Those of us that are community activists who are really trying to see the change, we need to hear all views,” Dumas said. “Then we need to sit down with people who have expertise about how we can execute and get some of these things in place. If we just keep talking about it and not moving to action, we’re not going to see it. I feel like the time is now.”
by| Jun 29, 2020 10:53 am
Adrion Russell, founder of Action Fitness, and Carla O’Brien, co-owner of District Athletic Club (DAC) on James Street, have a weighty message to share with their community: “Fitness is for everyone.”
The two businesses teamed up on Saturday to offer a free, donation-based and socially distanced outdoor workout designed for all fitness levels.
The event was scheduled about two weeks after Connecticut gyms were given the go-ahead to open their doors on June 17. The collaboration was designed to bring back clientele and to engage collective calf muscle. Attendees were also encouraged to get politically involved.
“This is the year we make change … and get the vote!” O’Brien declared to the crowd. “Today is about community, unity, meeting new people, and joining forces!”
On Saturday morning, those who registered for the workout showed up early to check in and get their temperature taken. Around 100 people meandered through District’s parking lot in athletic wear and masks, the latter of which were taken off once participants reached their workout stations.
Before the official workout began, some prepared with solitary stretches. Others practiced their conversation skills after months of social isolation. And many completed the 2020 Census and registered to vote at an onsite tent sponsored by the Greater New Haven NAACP.
This article has been edited. To read the full article, please click here.