Student org’s Breonna Taylor rally draws crowd

UK students gather around the Bowman statue during a student led protest in response to the grand jury decision on the Breonna Taylor case on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Jelyn Washington-Mays

On Thursday evening, members of the UK and Lexington communities gathered on campus to memorialize Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in her Louisville home six months ago.

The university’s Black Student Union organized the event after Wednesday’s grand jury news of Brett Hankison, one of the officers who was involved. for three counts of wanton endangerment. There were no charges related to the death of Breonna Taylor for Hankison or the two other officers.

Anyia Jones, the vice president of BSU said that the vigil held Thursday served not only the memory of Breonna Taylor, but also the needs of the University of Kentucky’s student body.

“This let students know that the BSU is here for them,” Jones said. “We wanted the students to know regardless of short notice we were going to do something for the students. “

Before the vigil began, attendees and organizers gathered on the lawn of the main administration building and began a unity walk that routed past Willy T. library and ended at Bowman’s statue.

On this walk attendees shouted chants such as “No justice, no peace” and “Say her name”, some carrying creative signs.

Once at Bowman’s statue, Jones led the gathered crowd in 192 seconds of silence, one second for every day since Taylor had died. Students and community members were then encouraged to come to the front of the statue and speak about their thoughts on Taylor’s case or any other cases of police brutality, to show solidarity and support or to just vent.

Jones, who found out about the indictment during class and immediately felt the emotions it caused, gave an impassioned speech. Crying, she shouted, “No justice was served for her brutally being murdered in her home.”

One of the other speakers was Alex Byrd, a UK freshman from Louisville. One thing Byrd spoke on was the reaction or lack thereof from the university.

UK president Eli Capilouto released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying “how Breonna’s tragic death is addressed as a matter of law is not something I, or anyone on our campus, can control or ordain.”

“I don’t want to say they felt obligated to release a statement but I’m not seeing a lot of reaction from professors or mine at least,” Byrd said of the email. She said UK could improve their response to Taylor’s case by supporting students and those who support Black Lives Matter.

“Supporting the movement speaks louder than saying ‘we know everyone’s upset’,” Byrd said.

Shyla Harton, a senior social work major, also spoke at the rally. Harton’s biggest response from the crowd came when she said “UK doesn’t really care about skin color. It’s all about a dollar.”

Harton shared the same sadness as many others who hoped to see charges for the death of Taylor.

“I don’t know why I’m so broken up about it because I kind of expected it. Kentucky is a very red state,” Harton said. Harton said she did not have an opinoin on the email from Capilouto, because she didn’t read it.

“As soon as I saw that it says Eli Capilouto, I swiped up,” Harton said, because of frustration over the university admitting a student who made negative remarks about Breonna Taylor, a school alumna.

Harton said the number one change she wants to see from the university movingforward is more honesty in regards to racism on campus.

“When it comes to these acts of white supremacy they need to go ahead and be upfront and transparent about their punishment and who it is,” Harton said.

BSU plans to protest, gather or otherwise organize for the next 25 days for justice for Breonna Taylor. Thursday’s event was also in collaboration with UGP, UK NAACP, and the Lation Student Union.

Some UK students also attended protests held downtown and organized by other groups in protest over the grand jury’s charges and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.