During the opening remarks of the first trial of a protester arrested during the Breonna Taylor demonstrations, the defendant’s lawyer argued that Louisville police manufactured a narrative justifying her arrest without observing his client doing those actions.
“They have no evidence other than that she was there,” Ted Shouse, who is representing Shajuandi Barrow, 35, told a jury on Monday.
Barrow was one of 76 people arrested at a protest in NuLu on July 24 of last year that saw some protesters barricade the street. Barrow is charged with obstructing a highway and unlawful assembly, both class B misdemeanors which carry a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.
Showing body camera footage to the jury, Shouse said that police had filled out arrest citations before Barrow was arrested. In those citations, he said, they used a “generic narrative” and did not see Barrow doing the things described in her arrest citation.
“They just arrested everybody and charged them with the same thing,” said Shouse.
A copy of Barrow’s arrest citation obtained by LEO Weekly used nearly identical wording to the citation of another protester arrested that afternoon.
“Above subject was protesting in the 700 BLK of E Market. Several subjects made barricades out of bike racks, mattresses, fencing, and 55 gallon drums tied together with cables and zip ties,” read Barrow’s citation. “Several dispersal orders were given to disperse due to the unlawful assembly. This unlawful assembly caused alarm and annoyance to the businesses in the area. Several 911 calls were made due to the actions of the crowd.”
In body camera footage shown by Shouse, officers could be seen filling out arrest citations. In one video, an officer said he was putting together a “generic narrative” and that other officers could just copy it.
Additional body camera footage showed Barrow sitting on the ground and giving an LMPD officer her basic information, which he then writes on an arrest citation he picked up from a nearby table — an arrest citation, Shouse said, that already had its post-arrest complaint section filled out.
Barrow can be heard telling the officer that she was at the protest with a relative and was arrested after she saw the relative speaking with a police officer and walked in their direction to see what was going on.
A note reading “Subj states she was not in violation of [dispersal] order. She believes the narrative is not correct” was added to the post-arrest complaint section of Barrow’s arrest citation.
In his opening statement, Jefferson County Attorney’s office staff attorney Matthew Kinney said the trial was about “freedom” and said that jurors would ultimately see that Barrow — “along with others” — blocked a highway and engaged in an unlawful assembly.
“This case is about freedom. It’s not about Miss Barrow’s freedom to protest, but it’s about your freedom and my freedom — all of our freedom. Our freedom to travel the roads of Jefferson County, to enjoy the roads that all of us pay for with our tax dollars,” said Kinney. “On July 24, 2020, Miss Barrow was part of a group that took that freedom from all of us.”
Kinney said that Barrow and other people at the protest kept parents from being able to pick up their children from nearby schools, kept ambulances from getting to UofL Hospital via the most direct route and prevented the public from enjoying Market Street’s shops and restaurants.
In his opening statement, Shouse took issue with Kinney’s focus on the actions of others at the protest, saying: “She’s on trial, not these faceless others.”
With much of the first day of the trial spent on jury selection, the prosecution and defense only made opening statements before court was adjourned. The case continues on Tuesday morning.
Activist and candidate for mayor Shameka Parrish-Wright, who was in the courtroom as the trial got underway on Monday, told LEO Weekly that her arrest in September of last year also came with charges and a narrative already written on the citation.
“It was important for me to be here today even though my charges were dropped because so many protesters were charged that way,” she said. “I didn’t even know what I was charged with until I was fingerprinted.”
In September 2020, Parrish-Wright was charged with first-degree rioting (a felony) as well as failure to disperse and unlawful assembly (both misdemeanors). The charges were ultimately dropped.