Twelve days before George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, Louisville EMT Breonna Taylor was similarly killed by officers conducting a no-knock raid on her home. As mass protests arose in response to the Floyd killing, activists online and in the streets have been adamant that police brutality against Black women not be ignored in the conversation about anti-Blackness and police brutality.
Past midnight on March 13, LMPD officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove broke into the apartment that Taylor shared with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. The officers have since claimed that they announced themselves as police, but Walker and neighbors have disputed this. The couple were awakened in bed by the police battering ram at their door, and Walker fired at the intruders with a gun he legally owned and was licensed to use. The officers returned fire more than 20 times, striking Taylor with at least eight bullets. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
June 5 would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday, and numerous protests organized that Friday acknowledged the occasion to celebrate her life. Meanwhile, increased attention to her case led many on social media to call for a stronger official response. In the aftermath of her death, the Louisville mayor Greg Fischer suspended the city’s use of no-knock warrants, the LMPD vowed to make all officers wear body cameras, and police chief Steve Conrad announced that he would retire. (Conrad was later fired after the LMPD killed David McAtee, another innocent Black person, on June 1.) The FBI has opened an investigation into Taylor’s death. While weeks of protests have successfully pressured state and local authorities to press charges against the four officers involved in George Floyd’s murder, as of this writing, no such administrative action has been taken against Breonna Taylor’s killers. But for many, this is not nearly enough. Mattingly, Hankison, and Cosgrove have so far received nothing more serious than being placed on “administrative reassignment.” Over this past weekend, calls for their arrest spread across social media.
A Twitter call from writer Jericho Brown …
… turned into a quote chain. Various users “passed along” the call by quoting it and repeating it in their own tweets. Brown’s cry was taken up by other large accounts, including Washington Post writer Karen Attiah and actress Yvette Nicole Brown, and eventually passed from #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign to filmmaker Jordan Peele:
The hashtag and rallying cry went viral from there, with various other filmmakers and actors spreading the #BreonnaTaylor hashtag alongside calls for her killers to face justice. Innumerable other quote chains spawned out of the original.
A fundraiser for Taylor’s family has raised nearly $5.5 million, and over 5.7 million people have signed a petition demanding the city bring her killers to justice. Activists continue to agitate on Taylor’s behalf, while social media users try to ensure that violence against Black women specifically is not left by the wayside in any discussion of institutional reform.