A message to Senate Republicans: ‘Do not blame protesters for failed downtown businesses’

The leadership of the state Senate’s Republican majority called last week on Gov. Andy Beshear for help in addressing what it called Mayor Greg Fischer’s failure to “restore order” in the city. Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, delivered a letter to the governor that says senators were “prepared to restore order and security to our neighbors, our property, and our businesses. Governor, the time for partnership is now.” She suggested calling a special session to address police reform. Senate President Robert Stivers suggested Beshear could send the National Guard to Louisville.

Below is Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds’ reply to the Republicans.

“Interesting. I’m concerned. I’ve never heard Julie Raque Adams or Stivers advocate for more money or a special session to invest in jobs, closing the achievement gap or affordable housing. You can’t be frustrated with a boarded-up downtown while allowing The West End to sit boarded and abandoned. That will make the people think that legislators don’t mind boards in Black communities, just in the business district. That’s not about our safety, that’s about money.

I woke up early this morning to go through The West End donor log, and Frankfort legislators cared so much about investing that they provided $0 (zero dollars) on a $52 million project [the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex], the largest economic development in The West End. And when Louisville tried to raise its own capital, the Frankfort powers that be couldn’t close the deal on the local options sales tax, in order for us to decide for ourselves.

It is the living in a boarded community with vacant, abandoned and contaminated land that leads to violence. It is the failure to invest in education that leads to violence. It is generational poverty that leads to violence. It is racism that allows, promotes and sustains all of these things.

So, I salute the demand for a special session on police reform, but if you want to be a hero, make it about reforming a budget that abandons us on the matter of affordable housing and education.

Do not blame protesters for failed downtown businesses. I’ve been protesting pretty regularly and am willing to bet I’ve spent more money in downtown Louisville businesses than anyone in Frankfort and most in Louisville. I live downtown. When I call Osaka for my to-go, they know how to spell my name. I walked into Sunergos the other day, and they told me I looked like I needed coffee. I’m trying to stay away from Ms. Ada’s, but I give in every few weeks. I’m at the Mayan Cafe so much that I have a table outside and a tab — for nights I have no wallet. So, protesters spend money. Plus, let’s be honest, there are plenty of cities across the Commonwealth with zero protesters and shuttered businesses. We are in a pandemic. People are getting sick from breathing on each other, so we are en masse, generally, staying home and rightfully so.

Now, I won’t dismiss the looting that took place in downtown months ago. That was not helpful for any business, and the fear it caused is responsible for the boards we see. However, most of those boarded businesses are not protecting broken glass — they are anticipating riots that have repeatedly been predicted by law enforcement.

And before anyone considers sending the National Guard back into our city, review the [New York Times] video of them shooting citizens at 26th and Broadway with pepper bullets for curfew violation. The next legislator to vote to send them in ought to be sued.

Louisville is and has been arresting peaceful protesters. I don’t know why. That costs money we do not have. Money we should be investing in job training, business creation and closing the achievement gap. These are the things that reduce violence. That being said, if we want to be all “law and order” bring home funds for expungements or anything that would allow a person who has paid their debt to society to return as a full citizen, so we can stop the cycle.

We are too smart to be so one-sided in the response to increased violence. Get the police off the protest duty and focused on violent crimes. Spend the money on the things that prevent crime.

Protests are being planned for Saturday [Derby day] by groups that have no history of violence. I will be there with them, raising my voice to demand change, not just in policing but in jobs, housing and education. Also, the National Urban League has made it clear that we should add two other things… we object to ending the Census count early, because that is one way our community keeps getting cheated out of funding, and Postmaster General [Louis] DeJoy needs to stop impeding the timely delivery of mail. We shouldn’t lose another life to senseless violence or to delayed mailing of medication because of petty politicians.