Update, 5:50 p.m.: Demonstrators gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse for an anti-racism and anti-police brutality rally and march Wednesday afternoon.
The demonstration is in response to an earlier Wednesday announcement from Louisville that one of the three officers in the Breonna Taylor case was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment.
Those charges were not in connection to Taylor’s death, but instead for putting Taylor’s neighbors in danger with gunfire.
Those gathered outside the courthouse in Cincinnati said they wanted a space to express their disappointment in the charges.
Previous reporting: People gathered outside of Cincinnati City Hall Wednesday afternoon as councilwoman Betsy Sundermann proposed a motion to take a stand against the defund-the-police movement. Simultaneously, officials in Louisville, Kentucky announced charges for one of the three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
The majority of speakers at the City Council meeting spoke out against Sundermann’s proposal.
More: ‘I’m excited to vote out Betsy Sundermann’: Speakers rail against defund-the-police motion
“These motions are a betrayal,” one speaker said. “We are your constituents, not the police. Black people are your constituents, not a profession, not a chosen occupation.
“You have our lives in your hands. Please represent us.”
Sundermann’s motion states not supporting the movement to defund the Cincinnati Police Department “demonstrates our commitment to the safety and security of our communities and neighborhoods.”
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In Kentucky, former Louisville metro police detective Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment on Wednesday afternoon. Two other officers involved in the shooting, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detective Myles Cosgrove, were not indicted.
At around 2 p.m. Wednesday, an Enquirer photographer observed approximately 20 people gathered outside of City Hall, both in support and opposition of the council issue regarding defunding police.
Cincinnati Public Schools communications officer Frances Russ confirmed that staff from five schools in the downtown area were released early Wednesday due to the Louisville decision, in anticipation of a public reaction.
Staff members from the following schools were released early:
- Rothenberg Preparatory Academy.
- Hays Porter School.
- School for Creative and Performing Arts.
- Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School.
- Virtual High School.
Students are not in the classroom at this time. Cincinnati Public Schools announced Monday that public school children will return to the classroom for two days each week beginning in October.
Lawyer Al Gerhardstein was a pivotal figure in establishing the Collaborative Agreement in Cincinnati in the wake of the 2001 shooting of Timothy Thomas and the protests it sparked.
Gerhardstein also sued the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department in 2016 after officers shot and killed Darnell Wicker. Representing the family, he secured a settlement from the city.
While working on that case, Gerhardstein said he uncovered that Louisville police had lied about implementing an early warning system that could flag problem officers.
The Breonna Taylor case “underscores the systemic nature of the problems in Louisville,” he told The Enquirer Wednesday.
“The one man who was indicted today would have been picked up and flagged due to all his prior use of force incidents had the department had an operational early warning system,” Gerhardstein said.
He added that the officer who shot and killed his client would have been flagged, too.
Prior to the 2016 shooting, the Louisville police were lauded for being progressive, even earning recognition from President Barack Obama. Gerhardstein said this was in part due to the system that was supposed to be in place and wasn’t.
“They lied to the people of Louisville,” he said. “It shows the amount of work that Louisville has to do to clean up the department and have it serve the people instead of oppressing the people.”
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a story Wednesday describing the cases and the promises of reform Louisville made in the wake of Wicker’s death, promises that have not been kept.
Iris Roley with the Black United Front led protests in 2001, worked to establish the Collaborative Agreement and has fought to protect the agreement since then. She said it is a sad day for the United States.
“I feel like it’s OK for police to kill black people with no repercussions,” Roley said. “We have yet to see any officer brought to justice when they kill a black person… It’s horrendous.”
She said there seems to be no legal or moral accountability when a police officer ends the life of a Black person.
“We saw the world stand up for George Floyd. We saw the world stand up for Beonna Taylor,” Roley said. “It would be nice to live in world where you life is valued and protected.”
She said Sunderman’s motion appears to move Cincinnati away from further progress.
Pastor Ennis Tait with the New Beginnings Church of the Living God in Avondale said the decision sends a terrible message to the city of Louisville, Taylor’s family and Black people, in general.
“These juries and judges don’t think about the consequences or the aftermath,” Tait said. “It’s unfortunate because they don’t have to live with it.”
Tait said if Louisville knew their systems were equitable, officials would not have locked down the city and instituted a curfew ahead of the announcement.
“What do I tell my daughter? What do I say to Black women today? What do we say?” Tait asked. “No one seems to be safe. Not women or men. Not adults or children. Not rich or poor.”
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio released a statement Wednesday saying it was “devastated by the grand jury’s decision.
“We live in a world where a Black woman, sleeping, posing no threat, can be killed without criminal culpability,” Urban League President and CEO Eddie Koen wrote. “All of the reforms and gestures continue to result in Pyrrhic victories for our communities. The one reform that we need is criminal accountability of the bad actors in policing.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also decried the decision.
“This is not justice. Innocent people were not merely endangered during this police shooting. An innocent person was murdered,” CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell. “If Kentucky will not hold all the responsible officers accountable for the death of Breonna Taylor, the Justice Department must do so.”
Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said no charge would bring Taylor back, but that justice was not served Wednesday.
“Today, no one was held accountable for killing Breonna Taylor,” Watts said. “Today’s indictment reflects the longstanding barriers to reducing police violence in America, and it’s more proof that the current systems are set up to fail Black communities.”