The Wednesday decision by a Kentucky grand jury to indict one of the three officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor was met with swift criticism among celebrities and activists.
Louisville, Ky., detective Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into neighboring apartments in connection to the police raid. The grand jury did not proceed with charges against any officers directly involved in Taylor’s death, which occurred on the night of March 13 when officers entered her Louisville home during a narcotics investigation.
But the Wednesday decision was not enough, said Oscar winner Viola Davis. “BLACK LIVES MATTER!!! Cannot be said enough times,” she tweeted.
Other celebrities voiced their dissatisfaction with the grand jury decision during a time of increased racial tension in the U.S. and divisiveness going into November’s presidential election. The general sentiment was that the charge proved that Black lives do not matter, with many Black stars quoting author James Baldwin about being “in a rage almost all the time.”
“Westworld” star Jeffrey Wright called for the state to “change the laws,” and “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Redd expressed disbelief, begging to “make it make sense.”
Yara Shahidi, star of the TV show “grown-ish,” was among the many who were disappointed and infuriated that the charges brought Wednesday had nothing to do with Taylor’s death “but to the POTENTIAL injury of other people in the apartment” complex.
"The charges..said Hankison 'wantonly shot a gun' into 3(!!) apartments..grand jury did not find that Hankison wantonly fired into Taylor's apt…
Mattingly, Cosgrove & Hankison fired more than two dozen rounds..she was hit 5 times."
No charges for killing her. Change the laws! https://t.co/BOgYtW6WcP
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) September 23, 2020
Wanton endangerment?!? Is that when somebody with bad balance eats a bowl of Wanton Soup walking up a very steep hill..right after they murder but aren’t charged for it?
Make it make sense! #Breonnataylordeservedbetter
— Chris Redd (@Reddsaidit) September 23, 2020
What is most insulting is that the recommended charges aren't even in response to the MURDER of Breonna Taylor, but to the POTENTIAL injury of other people in the apartment…..
— Yara shahidi (@YaraShahidi) September 23, 2020
Taylor was shot six times, with the fatal shot being fired by Officer Myles Cosgrove, Kentucky Atty. Gen. Daniel Cameron said Wednesday during a news conference. He added that Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly were justified in their use of force to protect themselves after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at them.
Cameron, who delivered the news to Taylor’s family earlier Wednesday, was emotional during the news conference. But the Republican special prosecutor in the case, who is Black, was promptly blasted by #OscarsSoWhite founder April Reign and “Scandal” star Kerry Washington. They noted that Cameron is on President Donald Trump’s short list of replacements for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) September 23, 2020
“They never get it right and that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Breonna Taylor should still be with us and her family deserved justice today. Tired of this s—,” tweeted Oscar winner Matthew A. Cherry.
Cameron characterized Taylor’s death as “a tragedy” but criticized celebrities, influencers and activists “who don’t understand” his state or its laws for speaking out about it to influence the case. Some of those celebrities include TV titan Oprah Winfrey, whose namesake magazine bought billboards across Louisville to demand justice for Taylor.
Oscar winner and Kentucky native George Clooney issued a statement to Deadline Wednesday rebutting Cameron’s directive.
“The justice system I was raised to believe in holds people responsible for their actions. Her name was Breonna Taylor and she was shot to death in her bed by three white police officers, who will not be charged with any crime for her death,” Clooney said. “I know the community. I know the commonwealth. And I was taught in the schools and churches of Kentucky what is right and what is wrong. I’m ashamed of this decision.”
Ben Crump, the attorney representing Taylor’s family, called the grand jury’s decision “outrageous and offensive to her memory.” The charges also were denounced by the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Today’s indictment is outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor’s memory, yet another example of no accountability for police. Full statement: (1 of 2) pic.twitter.com/pmurOrV5My
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 23, 2020
Organizers of Black Lives Matter, the group that has mobilized the nation against the killing of Black people, said they were “completely disgusted and outraged by the indescribable decision.”
“Here we are, yet again, a Black life that has been dehumanized at the hands of the police in cold-blooded murder; has no value in a criminal legal system that is supposed to protect it,” said Patrisse Cullors, a BLM founder and executive director.
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Statement by Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation in Response to Grand Jury Verdict in the Breonna Taylor case September 23, 2020 — We are completely disgusted and outraged by the indescribable decision that has been rendered in the murder of our beloved, Breonna Taylor. Here we are, yet again, a Black life that has been dehumanized at the hands of the police in cold-blooded murder; has no value in a criminal legal system that is supposed to protect it. We send our love and condolences to Breonna’s family who has to endure the painful reality that they may never receive justice because of the brutally racist system all Black people are subjected to. “I am completely enraged that our criminal legal system has failed Breonna Taylor, her family and friends, and frankly, it has failed our country. We will not give up in this movement. We are going to continue the work that we have started in the name of Breonna Taylor and countless Black lives cut short at the hands of police terror, systemic racism and white supremacy. We owe it to each of them to ensure justice and peace for all Black lives.” says Patrisse Cullors, founder and Executive Director, Black Lives Matter There is no question that Breonna Taylor was murdered inside of her apartment and there is also no question that there are three officers who walk free – with not one charge being brought against them. Today’s decision to charge one officer with wanton endangerment is completely disgraceful and unjustifiable. We have to ensure that the superior preferential treatment of police officers who commit crimes against Black lives are held accountable. We will continue to stand up and fight against police terror, systemic racism and white supremacy in America and around the world. If you are with us as we continue to fight for all Black lives, add your name to the petition right now and help us spread the word. Every day, we are surviving — if we do. We will continue to rise up until all Black lives are valued and matter across this world. Breonna, we are still chanting your name.
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Louisville was preparing for more protests and possible unrest as the public awaited Wednesday’s decision.
Here’s a look at how others reacted to the news.
To not indict the officers for murder is to claim #BreonnaTaylor killed herself. Racist America constantly kills Black people and then tells Black people we killed ourselves. Racism extends past death. But we’ll never stop declaring that our lives matter, that our deaths matter.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) September 23, 2020
My thoughts are with the family and loved ones of Breonna Taylor today. Her loss remains immeasurable, and the continued lack of justice for her murder is inexcusable.
We owe it to her memory to demand a justice system that recognizes #BlackLivesMatter once and for all. 1/3
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) September 23, 2020
Brett Hankison is indicted for shooting into the apartment NEXT to Breonna Taylor & not for KILLING HER.
He's fired for shooting into BREONNA TAYLOR'S apartment & not for KILLING HER.
This is systemic racism.
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) September 23, 2020
God bless Breonna’s family and all who knew and loved her. Her tragic death compounded by the violence of silence and inaction by the city she called home is more than any of them should have to endure. https://t.co/fcDmIWHlDS
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) September 23, 2020
The state of Kentucky deemed the lives of Breonna Taylor’s neighbors to be worth more than her own. Let that sink in.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 23, 2020
Everyone-and I do mean everyone-should be against officers being able to walk into your home and kill you with impunity.
— brittany packnett cunningham does not do remixes. (@MsPackyetti) September 23, 2020
We will continue to fight to shift power and resources away from the racist and unjust institution of policing that regularly terrorizes our communities and the lives of those that we love.
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 23, 2020
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SAY HER NAME: BREONNA TAYLOR. Our current justice & policing system has failed. It has failed to keep us safe, even in our own homes. It has failed to protect Black people or stem the tide of racist police violence. And today, it has failed to deliver justice for #BreonnaTaylor. For 194 days, folks in #Louisville have demanded the officers who murdered Breonna — Hankison, Mattingly, Cosgrove — are charged for her murder. @BLMLouisville and people across the nation have demanded JUSTICE, divestment from violent policing, and investments in Black lives. failure to bring charges for the murder of #BreonnaTaylor is another injustice. AG Daniel Cameron just told LMPD it is OK to kill Black people with impunity. His, and #Louisville leaders', decision to stand w/ the cops who murdered Breonna is why we shout #BLACKLIVESMATTER!
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No charges for #BreonnaTaylor’s murderers = no justice, no equality, no advancement in the state of the way this country takes #BlackLives with impunity. If her life didn’t matter enough to hold those who took it accountable, then whose??? When???
— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) September 23, 2020
Black Lives Matter. Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. What has been announced in Kentucky is not even remotely in the realm of anything that even begins to approach true justice for her murder. #BlackLivesMatter #BreonnaTaylorWasMurdered
— Anthony Rapp Black Lives Matter (@albinokid) September 23, 2020
Brett Hankinson, one of Breonna Taylor’s murderers, was NOT charged with murder, but with wanton endangerment. This crime is punishable with up to five years in prison. That’s one year for each bullet fired into her sleeping body. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. #JusticeForBreonna
— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) September 23, 2020
This is a sad day for America and for justice.
Today, no one was truly charged for Breonna Taylor's murder, and her family deserves much better.
This is again why elections matter, not just for president. We must vote up and down the ballot by November 3rd.
Black Lives Matter.
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) September 23, 2020
Point blank: More than 6 months after Breonna Taylor was killed, no officers have been charged directly with her death. And based on the Kentucky Attorney General's comments today, it's likely no one ever will be. #BreonnaTaylor
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) September 23, 2020
The American legal system as currently constructed and the laws it enforces as currently written are not designed to criminally charge police officers who kill people — no matter the circumstance
— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) September 23, 2020
If you agree #BreonnaTaylor should be alive today, then by extension, you agree her killers should face justice.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) September 23, 2020
Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. This result is a disgrace and an abdication of justice. Our criminal justice system is racist. The time for fundamental change is now. https://t.co/IPmO9upXbK
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 23, 2020
“Black Lives Matter” exists because of days like today. Breonna Taylor should still be alive.
— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) September 23, 2020
It’s all kind of numbing. On one hand it’s like I KNOW I’m not crazy there’s a real problem in our country. On the other I’m sad that everyone doesn’t see it and some don’t want to. Of course I know God is at work. It’s just tough to process it all. #BreonnaTaylor https://t.co/b1ALKdkRS3
— Lecrae (@lecrae) September 23, 2020
In 2020 all black people are asking is for white America to stop killing us.
"That's a little too much to ask right now," America said as it shrugged and reloaded her guns. "Can you circle back in another 50 years?"
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) September 23, 2020
If you don’t know what Wanton Endangerment means, look it up. In a nutshell, the 1 officer charged with it is NOT getting charged for KILLING #BreonnaTaylor – his charge is for potentially harming and endangering NEIGHBORS and others around while firing bullets. WTF.
— Kayla Braxton (@KaylaBraxtonWWE) September 23, 2020
Praying for Breonna’s mother and family. Because they knew and loved her before her name became a hashtag.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) September 23, 2020
Breonna Taylor is not listed as a victim in this idictment. The wanton endangerment is for the bullets entering other peoples apartments through the walls. The initials of the victims listed did not include BT.
This indictment ignores the murder of #BreonnaTaylor.
— Gregg Housh (@GreggHoush) September 23, 2020
Always remember: the reason these officers so rarely get charged, let alone convicted, is because killing us is LEGAL. They can almost always find a way to justify it that the law will accept. #BreonnaTaylor
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) September 23, 2020
The problem with racism is not that people know it exists and are being trained on how to do better. The problem with racism is racism. And today, tragically, makes that all the more clear.
— Kimberlé Crenshaw (@sandylocks) September 23, 2020
Question: How is it that Breonna Taylor was hit so many times when she wasn’t the one who fired the first shot?
Kentucky AG: That’s part of the tragedy here.
Note: Kentucky AG has said Taylor’s boyfriend shooting first justifies the officers killing Taylor.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) September 23, 2020