Color of Change will keep up the fight after Breonna Taylor receives no justice
theGrio spoke to Color of Change's Senior Director of Criminal Justice Campaigns about what comes next after the grand jury decision on Breonna Taylor's death
After months of demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT who was killed by police in her own home, it was announced no criminal charges would stem from her death on Wednesday. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron stated at a press conference that an investigation found officers were “justified” in their actions.
Although one officer was charged with three counts of “wanton endangerment” (a fourth-degree felony in Kentucky), it took a moment to realize that no one was being held responsible for Taylor’s death.
theGrio sat down with Scott Roberts who is Senior Director of Criminal Justice Campaigns for Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization in the country.
“We have seen too many instances, especially when these cases are taken to grand jury, where we don’t really get a full sense of what’s being presented to the juries. We know that the Attorney General in Kentucky is a police apologist. It feels like they attempted some slight of hand, to say that an officer was being indicted on three counts, and then as the details flowed out, we realize this is not justice for Breonna Taylor at all. The system is telling us that no one needs to be held responsible for Breonna’s death,” Roberts says.
The fact that it took 194 days, more than six months, for it to be announced that no one would be charged in this innocent woman’s death adds insult to injury.
“I think part of the strategy is to delay and try to make it take forever. To use the grand jury as a shield for a lack of earnest commitment to bringing police officers to justice in hopes that the outrage and passion that people have for justice in this case would die out. I think they failed on that part. People are not going to let this just go,” he continues.
“At the end of the day, the system continues to tell us that it’s not built to get justice for us as Black people and certainly not to hold police officers accountable. That they’re above the law and that they can murder Black people with impunity.”
After Wednesday’s announcement, protests erupted in cities across the nation, prompting more fear for Black lives who are exercising their right to raise their voices.
“I think each and every one of us has to consider what level of risk we’re willing to take? I’m glad that there are people who are willing to put their lives on the line, frankly, in the pursuit of justice. There’s a long tradition of that in our community and I think that’s critical, but I think there are lots of ways to do this. People can be very impactful from their homes,” he says.
“We’re in a global pandemic as well. And so, like, you know. We don’t want to lose more lives. If people do feel the need to be in the streets, I think I would just try to pay attention to whether it’s actually being organized by organizations that you know and trust. Pay attention to the news and your local community around how the police are responding. Have a plan. How am I getting out if I feel uncomfortable or threatened? What is it that I need to take with me? There are lots of great resources online in terms of what types of supplies you might need if you are hit by a tear gas. Be incredibly vigilant in terms of your surroundings.”
Roberts adds that there were many different components that were contributing to this moment in time.
“There are going to be people who go to these protests just to provoke and you can’t get away from that element. I think those are the ways to try to minimize risk as folks take to the streets at a time like this,” he says.
“But the one thing that we can’t predict is the volatility and violence of both law enforcement and some of the folks who are just there as counter protesters, so I hope people are careful and vigilant.”
Protesting is not for everyone, and it’s certainly not the only way to take up the ongoing fight for justice.
“These instances are often catalysts for real systemic change in our communities. A lot of people are looking to Color of Change and other organizations for direction and framing in this moment. So one of the things we want to we try to do is to help people make sense of what has just happened. Then we want to give folks something that feels meaningful to do in the moment. We’re a digital organization, so we’re not out there organizing protests, that’s not our lane, but I tremendously respect the people who are going to be participating in protests and civil disobedience, and direct action,” he explains.
“We’re trying to organize people around the effort to reshape and read between public safety and local. We have been working with local partners like Black Lives Matter Local to try and get people organized to demand that we divest from policing and invest in other methods that are going to keep our communities safe. We believe that you can shrink the size and scope of policing, meaning both reduce how many police are out there, but also the scope in terms of what they’re assigned to do.”
Of course, a gross miscarriage of justice prompts feelings of helplessness, but it’s important that we as a community continue to demand real change.
“We know there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world around how to move forward, given that pleas for justice and for change in this system mostly have not been met. We’re going to have to continue the fight, to organize ourselves, to find ways to make change. I think a lot this is going to happen at the local level, but of course there’s an election coming up as well. This should motivate people to make sure that our voices are heard. For Black people, it’s about showing up and showing our power. As an organization, our aim is to build power for Black communities,” he says.
“We need to continue build and flex our power. We have to constantly show the folks who are in those positions of power, whether it be the government or corporate America, that they can’t continue to do this type of thing to us. It’s a long fight. It’s been a struggle since our ancestors were brought to this country. If we can continue to face down this kind of dehumanizing system that we’re dealing with, it eventually will make that type of change and there will be results.”
Despite the overwhelming feelings of defeat this case may have stirred, it’s important to keep up the fight and not lose hope.
“We can use this moment and this energy to make real changes in our communities. I hope that people aren’t seeing this and throwing their hands up and believing that this means that everything we’ve been doing is for nothing. There are things we can truly accomplish with a united front, with organizing and making demands of the system and leveraging the power that we do have,” says Roberts.
“They galvanize us as a community and new leaders emerge. We all learn how to better affect change. Unfortunately, this probably won’t be the last one of these cases but if we can use each moment to build and become more powerful and more strategic, there’s a lot we can accomplish. I hope people stay in the fight with us.”
Check out the full interview above.
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