Fischer’s police sow chaos

Sep 30, 2020 at 10:24 am
Father’s Day

Mayor Greg Fischer remains inexplicably bound to antiquated, ineffective police procedures that create more chaos than bring resolution. He continues to set up the police and the protesters for confrontation. He has proven unable to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Here is Fischer’s statement regarding peaceful marchers who were met by Louisville Metro Police wielding batons: “I appreciate, though, that the batons prompted feelings of fear and mistrust among many of the marchers, their families and friends, as well as some who saw the images later. That’s a reality we cannot ignore. And that’s why I asked the Chief to review how we should best handle incidents like this should they happen in the future.”

He said that on Aug.15, 2017 after marches here responded to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Three years later, last Friday, peaceful marchers were once again stymied on Main Street by baton-wielding riot police, this time on Main Street. In a few minutes, flash bangs sent most of the crowd running in hysterics.

It was all on TV, the sun was still out, and it was two hours before the citywide curfew went into effect. Fischer had already declared a state of emergency, formally recognizing that this was an extraordinary time. In addition to the blocks of police-barricaded streets downtown, it’s fair to say that some consideration should have been afforded the protesters occupying a downtown thoroughfare.

There was no vandalism, no rioting. It was orderly… until the police boxed the marchers into a corner. Why stop the peaceful march at all? Why the state of emergency? Why the curfew?

“Our goal is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights,” Mayor Fischer said on Sept. 23, explaining the curfew he ordered. “At the same time, we are preparing for any eventuality to keep everyone safe.” Fischer had already forgotten the last curfew he imposed on the city?

It wasn’t three months earlier, another curfew led The Kentucky National Guard to respond to a crowd gathered around YaYa’s BBQ at the corner of 26th and Broadway, where they shot and killed David McAtee. They never should have been there, because there never should have been a curfew. More recently, police claimed they were at McAtee’s because of “intelligence” about protesters regrouping, reversing a months-long narrative about the curfew.

Still, whether it’s a curfew or sending law enforcement out to perform predictive-policing –– as though they had the superpowers of precogs from the movie “Minority Report” –– Fischer should know by now that his force isn’t capable of not screwing up.

The same officers enforcing the curfew or maintaining peace will include the same officer who shot a reporter with a pepper ball on live TV in the spring; and the officer who eagerly sought permission to arrest protesters taking shelter in the First Unitarian Church; and possibly the officer who bumped a marcher with their squad car during the march in 2017.

It wasn’t the brute force from police that brought peace during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s. It was the protesters, martyrs and heroes peacefully resisting authority who advanced equality and brought relative peace — they did it in spite of the hoses, dogs and batons.

In Louisville, 2020, the batons are back, along with enhanced riot gear and police tanks. Mayor Fischer is not a racist person, but he is lost. He needs to find and lead a new approach –– not just to protests, but to policing in Louisville. He can start by welcoming demonstrators to the streets with the presumption of innocence and nonviolence.

Fischer has apologized for mistakes he’s made, as recently as a few weeks ago. “I know that I’ve made mistakes and I’ve disappointed some. I am deeply sorry for that, and most importantly, I am sorry for the tragic death of Breonna Taylor,” he said after the Metro Council reprimanded him with a vote of no-confidence.

If he can learn from the mistakes of the past, apologize and set the police and the city on a new path, this city will show him compassion and history will forgive him.