ITHACA, N.Y. — A few dozen protesters gathered Wednesday night to call for much of what they’ve spent the last several months urging: an end to racist police violence and the defunding of police both locally and nationwide.
The event, meant as a vigil for victims of police violence, was hastily organized in the wake of the announcement that two of the three police officers involved in killing Breonna Taylor in her apartment Louisville, K.Y., would not be charged in connection with her death; a third officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into neighboring apartments, but was not charged for killing Taylor. As has been common over the last few months, starting with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, the announcement sparked protests nationwide denouncing the decision and highlighting racism in policing.
About 40 local residents gathered at the Black Lives Matter mural painted at the intersection of State and Plain Sts. and lit dozens of candles to commemorate the countless victims of police violence. While previous vigils and protests have been marred by passersby shouting slogans against Black Lives Matter or supporting President Donald Trump, this event remained mostly devoid of that, with drivers navigating around the blocked segment of road while either honking or yelling in support of the rally-goers.
The event was more sedate than those in the past have been, and the group eventually decided not to march around downtown as they have at many of their previous gatherings, often ending in front of Ithaca Police Department and calling for police officers to resign and for the department’s city funding to be slashed and redistributed to community programs. There was only one public address too, another departure from prior events, delivered by local activist Genevieve Rand, who explained the Taylor situation to those who may not have been up to date and tried to articulate the message the grand jury’s decision sent about the relative immunity of law enforcement officials from the laws they enforce.
“The message that those charges send to every other officer, not just in Louisville but all over Kentucky, is that if bullet holes had not been found in the apartment, nothing would happen to any of those officers,” Rand said. “If they had not damaged the surrounding property, they wouldn’t have a single charge against them.”