Breonna Taylor, Kenneth Walker, David Mcatee, Covid-19 and anti-blackness

On the evening of May 31, LMPD and the National Guard drove into the Russell neighborhood of West Louisville. They had no good reason to be there, and no protesting was taking place. 

In downtown and East Louisville the night before, groups were dispersed after curfew with loudspeakers and pepper bullets and tear gas and flash-bang grenades, or they were left alone. But in West Louisville, LMPD and the National Guard went right for live ammo. They do not value Black lives, and they are not held to the same standards for the use of force as in white neighborhoods. 

Now we have one more of our own to grieve, David McAtee. 

Some people may wonder how we got here. On March 13, Louisville police executed a reportedly falsified warrant, looked for drugs they never found, reportedly trafficked by a person who did not live with Breonna Taylor or in her complex and who they had already in custody. In the wake of COVID-19, a global pandemic, Breonna Taylor was an essential worker working as a first responder. She put her body on the front lines to save lives, only to be brutally murdered by LMPD. 

Detectives Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly carried out a no-knock raid in plain clothes. They broke in unannounced, according to multiple witnesses, sprayed her home with 20 rounds, shot Breonna at least eight times and killed her.

During this pandemic, one that has disproportionately killed Black people, Black people have seen no change in the typically disproportionate public compassion and outrage. Resources are continually segregated. As we have recently seen, populations of Black and Brown people are overly policed, and they are met with force and intimidation and death when trying to demand justice or just when living their lives. From the food pantry line to the corner store to the courtroom, the pandemic has illuminated what we already know.

As if Breonna’s killing was not enough, the government tried to charge Breonna’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker with attempted murder. Kenneth had every right and reason to defend his home and Breonna. Many white Americans advocate for gun rights and the Second Amendment, but they have been silent about this real-life example of what they claim to advocate for: a person’s right to bear arms to protect their life and loved ones and, if need be, to protect themselves from a government that unjustly seeks to deprive of them of that.

Dismantling anti-Blackness is a daily practice. Dismantling white supremacy is our goal.

For many white people, the need to carry a gun has nothing to do with protecting a home, as Kenny did, nor to protect lives, as Breonna did. White supremacy and toxic masculinity require guns for power and control. During a global pandemic, in a time of such need, where our Black and Brown communities are shouldering such a disproportionate share of the pain and suffering, our city’s focus should not be on over-policing to kick us when we are down. Our city should not be gunning us down and claiming murder is public safety.

For months, Breonna Taylor’s murder was widely ignored by the media while they directed attention to the COVID-19 pandemic. Breonna Taylor’s killing in March wasn’t brought up until after Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased and gunned down by two white supremacists (one of whom was a former police officer) for jogging in a Georgia suburb. 

When the state commits violence against Black women it is usually unreported or underreported and this is an extension of misogynoir. Her life matters. And Breonna Taylor should still be here with us, yet she isn’t. Mayor Greg Fischer and now former-police Chief Steve Conrad were silent for two months until #BreonnaTaylor went internationally viral. 

Fischer’s story about how the job of a police officer is a difficult one, “full of split-second decisions,” is misleading and callous. It would never be plausible or acceptable to the public but for white supremacy. Fischer knew this death resulted from a premeditated, botched, no-knock raid on the home of an innocent woman. His statement is not about justice as he claims, and it serves no purpose other than to give undeserved credence to LMPD.  

Fischer is anything but impartial. 

Breonna Taylor’s life was devalued, and LMPD trivialized, justified and lied about her murder. To this day LMPD refuses to hold their officers accountable and paves the way for more systemic police violence and murder in Black communities and communities of Color, as we have just seen with the killing of David McAtee.

This major global pandemic has seen waves of police violence across the nation. In Indianapolis, three people were just killed by the police within a span of eight hours: two Black men, Sean Reed and McHale Rose, and a pregnant white woman named Ashlynn Lisby. On May 19, LMPD shot a Black teenager in Fern Creek. As COVID-19 ravages Black, Indigenous, and communities of Color, the state hemorrhages the resources to overpolice these very communities and hypercriminalize and kill Black and Brown bodies.

Louisville is one of the nation’s most racially segregated cities. West Louisville is hostage to police violence and deprived of basic resources such as food; we live in a food and resource apartheid. Police violence is additionally a reproductive justice issue, as police violence disrupts and destroys families. Reproductive justice includes the opportunity for all families, not just some, to raise their children in safe and healthy communities with rights to autonomy and self-determination. 

Let’s be clear about something: Black people are not criminals, and Black people do not own violence.