Baltimore protesters vow to avenge Breonna Taylor, apparently not understanding what happened

Baltimore protesters vow to avenge Breonna Taylor, apparently not understanding what happened

It wasn’t the biggest protest over the shooting of Breonna Taylor in the country, nor was there any notable violence. But the dozens of people who formed an automobile caravan in Baltimore this weekend had their opportunity to speak and address the media, making one thing clear. They have no intention of ending the marches and protests until there is “justice” for Taylor, presumably in the form of the arrest and imprisonment of the officers involved. But listening to the comments from the protest organizers as given to the local CBS News outlet, one has to wonder if they’ve actually been paying attention to the details.

Dozens marched in downtown Saturday afternoon as a part of a community car caravan. The protest ended in McKeldin Square with demonstrators vowing to continue to demonstrate until there’s justice.

Protestors filled the streets of Baltimore joining the many people across the country frustrated and angered by a grand jury’s decision not to charge three police officers with murder after the death of Breonna Taylor.

“We’re just speechless really. It’s a speechless moment that everybody knows that Breonna Taylor was shot to death by the police officers,” said Sharon Black of the People’s Power Assembly.

Alexander Pope is frequently – and incorrectly – credited with coining the phrase, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. (Pope actually wrote “learning” instead of knowledge.) What we’re seeing playing out in Baltimore, Louisville and many other cities around the country is turning out to be a literal example of this phenomenon, and it’s growing more dangerous by the day.

The protesters in Charm City are, of course, absolutely right about a few things here. Breonna Taylor was indeed shot to death by a police officer earlier this year. It’s also true that she was unarmed and not involved in any criminal activity that should have placed her life at risk, beyond perhaps a bit of aiding and abetting illegal drug trafficking. (That hasn’t been definitively proven, though it seems likely.) And none of the police officers involved in the raid have been charged with a crime in connection with her death. Nor do they seem likely to be charged later given the recent revelations from the grand jury.

If that’s all you know about the case, it’s understandable how you might be upset. Hell, even if you know the entire story, it’s still tragic that she died the way she did. But what’s missing for most of these protesters is the full context. They are demanding “justice” for Breonna Taylor, but the reality is that she’s already had the only justice available. It just wasn’t the “justice” they were looking for.

Following the shooting, all of the officers involved in the raid were put on suspension while an investigation took place, as is standard with all officer-involved shootings. One of them was later fired, though given the findings of the grand jury, it’s not impossible that he may be returned to duty. A lengthy investigation with the results presented to the grand jury led to a determination that her death was a tragic accident, not a case of murder.

Demanding that the officers be arrested for murder following an accident such as this isn’t justice. It’s a hunt for revenge. The only “justice” that would result from such a move would be of the vigilante variety. And threatening to continue disrupting the order and security of your city until your demands are met is extortion, not some case study in Right vs Wrong. I realize that’s a harsh way to put it and I’m probably not doing much to assuage some legitimately hurt feelings, but that’s the brutal reality of the situation.

It’s difficult to even imagine any sort of changes to police procedures and training that could have produced a different outcome. The use of no-knock warrants remains controversial, but those on the front lines of law enforcement know that it’s sometimes the only way to produce results. And while the decision of Taylor’s boyfriend (a legal gun-owner) to fire first may also be understandable if he truly didn’t hear the police announce themselves, it still put the officers in a “shots fired” and “officer down” situation. From that point on, the unfortunate outcome was a matter of chance more than anything else.

The city must do a better job of communicating this to the community and the nation. It may not end the demonstrations, but it would at least put the situation in context for everyone observing these events.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on September 22, 2023