Waving signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace,” more than 100 people gathered at City Hall in Colorado Springs on Sunday to protest a grand jury’s decision to clear police of wrongdoing in the deadly shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.
The decision to charge only the officer whose shots missed — sending bullets into a neighboring apartment — rather than the two officers who killed the 26-year-old Taylor last March was rooted in institutional racism, said protest organizer Autum Carter-Wallace.
- By Rachel Lorenz Special to The Denver Gazette
“They put more value on a $15 piece of drywall than they did on Breonna Taylor’s life,” she said. Authorities say that Taylor was killed when police returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them as they served a no-knock warrant at her home as part of a drug investigation. No drugs were found in Taylor's home, and the slain woman wasn’t suspected of committing crimes. Police obtained the warrant after claiming that her ex-boyfriend, an investigative target, had repeatedly visited her.
Organized by a group called Colorado Springs CounterPropaganda, Sunday's protest and march echoed demands for racial justice and police reform that erupted across the country earlier this year after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Floyd’s death led to weeks of mostly peaceful protests in Colorado Springs, but little in the way of reform, said many in attendance, whose signs were critical of police and the justice system, including one calling for Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski to resign.
Among the names the group chanted was De’Von Bailey, a 19-year-old Black man shot in the back by Colorado Springs police while fleeing an arrest in August 2019. As in the Taylor case, a grand jury declined to pursue charges against the two officers who fired on Bailey. The officers were investigating a reported armed robbery and believed Bailey was reaching for a pistol later found in the pocket of his shorts — an explanation that failed to satisfy critics who described Bailey’s slaying as excessive force by police.
Some of the protesters at Sunday’s march also participated in a march on the anniversary of Bailey's death to the home of Alan Van’t Land, one of the officers who shot at Bailey. That protest was peaceful, but police later charged three people with felonies, said Sebastian Sassi, who said he was among those who went to the officer’s home in the Pulpit Rock area in north Colorado Springs.
“It’s obviously an intimidation effort,” Sassi said. “The fact that you’re not breaking any laws doesn’t dissuade the Colorado Springs Police Department from arresting you.”
Police accused the trio of "riotous and illegal behaviors," saying two of them threatened people with assault-style rifles.
Carter-Wallace was among those dismissive of a police accountability board being formed by City Council, citing what she called a pro-police membership, including former Colorado Springs police chief Lou Velez and the widow of Micah Flick, an El Paso County sheriff’s deputy slain in the line of duty in 2018.
“The citizens police board is a sham the city gave us to shut us up,” she said.
Several people at Sunday’s march wore pistols on their hips, part of what organizers called a security force. They said armed counterprotesters at Colorado Springs’ George Floyd protests — carrying semi-automatic rifles — had aroused fears they could be targeted with violence.
During the march downtown, a protester said she was threatened by a motorist, allegedly after he tried to snake through a group of marchers and nearly hit her. She kicked his car as he passed, and the man later got out and “chased (her) with a golf club,” she said.
Several marchers converged on the man and took the club away, drawing a response by Colorado Springs police, who arrived in a large black van. The police ordered the protesters to disperse, leading many to run. Most of the group returned to the steps of City Hall before marching to police headquarters and the county courthouse at Tejon Street and Vermijo Avenue.
This story has been revised to remove an incorrect detail about Breonna Taylor's deadly shooting.