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Labor Joins Calls to Defund the Police Following the Shooting Death of Breonna Taylor

October 16, 2020

By Naeisha Rose

Breonna Taylor.

New York, NY – The grand jury verdict in the Breonna Taylor case has left many trade unionists outraged as two of the three police officers involved in the EMT’s shooting death on March 13, were not indicted, and a third received a minor charge — even after audio recordings were released that had conflicting statements from the officers and contradictory reports from other sources.

“As a union representing thousands of Black essential workers, we are outraged by the grand jury decision to let two of Breonna Taylor’s killers off scot free and one without a murder charge,” said President Kyle Bragg of 32BJ SEIU. “Breonna Taylor—an EMT, essential worker, daughter, sister and friend—deserves justice. An indictment of one of three of Breonna’s killers is a far cry from justice. Breonna Taylor’s grand jury decision sadly reaffirms that the legal system condones the murder of Black people at the hands of police.”

Prof. Lawrence Johnson, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College, PSC-CUNY member and affiliate of the school’s Anti-Racist Coalition (ARC) agreed with Bragg. 

“As a Black man who studies Black politics I would say that the failure of indictment, was a failure to mobilize enough pressure to force the state to indict,” said Johnson. “It’s not a failure of the state but business as usual. This does convince enough people of a younger generation of Black people that the legal system is not a source of ‘justice’ but remains convincingly an instrument of oppression. This is not a position that is hard to come by if one has an analysis of white supremacy that we advocate in ARC. However, I also understand the call for the arrest and indictment of Breonna’s murderers relies on a hopefulness that white supremacy can be ‘kinder.'”

The killing of Breonna Taylor and other unarmed people of color at the hands of police has sparked nationwide calls to defund the police. On Saturday, October 17, a coalition of labor and community leaders, including the DC 37 Progressive Caucus, will take to the streets of downtown Manhattan starting at 2 p.m. to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to reduce the NYPD’s budget by $3 billion and use part of that money to save the 22,000 municipal jobs now on the chopping block.

James Johnson, unrelated to Prof. Johnson, is a liaison for the southeast Queens community for the city’s Comptroller’s Office. He is also a member of DC 37 Local 371 and the founder of Opportunities for Southeast Queens Millenials, an organization for Millennials and the Generation Z residents of southeast Queens.

Johnson shares some of the professor’s sentiments, but is somewhat more optimistic about the future of America and its treatment of Black lives. 

“The murder of Breonna Taylor and the resulting failure of the justice system to provide any real justice to her family and our community at large are heartbreaking,” said Johnson. “This is just the next in a long line of disappointing outcomes that the black community has had to experience due to the inability of the justice system to work for us. What’s different now is that the country and our community is at a level of heightened awareness.”

The grand jury was told that the warrant issued to Taylor’s home was a no-knock warrant, but executed as a knock-and-announce warrant, that there was no master plan to search her home, and that LMPD Det. Brett Hankison — who was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment — believed he heard a suspect barricade her or himself in the home and saw an AR-15, according to the Louisville Courier Journal, a local Kentucky newspaper. 

However, there was no mention to the grand jury that a separate police department concluded that there were no packages from Jamarcus Glover — the main target of the narcotics investigation — that were being delivered to Taylor’s home or that the judge that issued the warrant was concerned that an LMPD detective may have allegedly lied to her to obtain the warrant, according to the Courier Journal. Jurors weren’t told that Taylor’s boyfriend did not have an AR-15 in her home, but a 9mm handgun.

“We are fed up of the justice system failing to hold law enforcement accountable,” said Johnson. “This isn’t a local issue either you’ve seen the people in the streets calling for change in the city and across the world. We are at a crossroads now. We have all seen the images. We are no longer focusing our outrage on one locality at a time. The entire system must change and we’re going to be in this together whether they like it or not.”


October 16, 2020

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