On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was killed in the hallway of her apartment after being awakened from her sleep by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove’s execution of a no-knock search warrant and the ensuing gunfire.

Her murder, along with the police’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, became the catalyst for nationwide uprisings throughout the summer of 2020. The uprisings have inspired peaceful protests worldwide, looting throughout the country, and a murderous response from white nationalists who have targeted protesters in the name of “self-defense.”

On Sept. 23, more than six months after Taylor was killed, a state grand jury announced charges in her case. There were no charges against Mattingly and Cosgrove for Taylor’s death. However, Hankinsion was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment — for the bullets he shot that could have injured Taylor’s neighbors.

Chicago, along with other major cities nationwide, deployed pre-emptive measures to protect neighborhoods, bracing themselves for the evening of the Kentucky grand jury decision to resemble the fervor of Memorial Day weekend.


On the afternoon of Sept. 23, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a joint press conference at the Chicago Cultural Center in response to the grand jury decision. I attended the presser. Speakers included Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Police Supt. Brown, Rev. Jesse Jackson and My Block My Hood My City founder Jahmal Cole. 

The theme of the press conference was that the decision in Taylor’s case was a “miscarriage of justice,” as Lightfoot put it; that there is a long way to go in the fight for the protection of Black lives against state-sanctioned violence, and that no matter what, demonstrators need to make sure that they are protesting in a way they deem peaceful and acceptable. 

This press conference, based on the statements given and the update that the neighborhood protection plan has been activated, was a plea for Black people to remain peaceful in the face of repeated unchecked violence at the hands of police, mere hours after hearing that yet another grand jury made the decision not to indict anyone for an innocent Black person’s murder.

During the grandstanding of these public officials, I remained curious about what seemed to be a massive oversight in their condemnation of Kentucky’s grand jury proceedings and the actions of LMPD officers responsible for murdering Taylor. 

Haven’t there been similar cases of unchecked police violence right here in Chicago,” I thought.

And, when I finally got the chance, I asked: “There are people who will say that the words today ring hollow because the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the city of Chicago have miscarried justice in the cases of Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd and others. Do you acknowledge those situations as equally severe miscarriages of justice? And how, in the face of these cases, do you expect Black Chicagoans to continue to trust the police to protect the rights that you say were ignored by today’s decision?”

Although I directed the question at both Lightfoot and CPD Supt. David Brown, Lightfoot is the only one who chose to answer. 

“Rekia Boyd, LaQuan McDonald, and too many other names are ones that I think are painful legacies of where we have failed,” she began. “But I have to push back a little bit on the premise of your question…” 

Lightfoot went on to explain how, because charges were brought against officers in those cases, the circumstances don’t equate. 

“Was anybody satisfied with the sentence that [Officer Jason VanDyke] got? Absolutely not,” she continued. “But a jury of our peers blacked out all the noise, and, in a remarkable fate that hasn’t happened for decades in our city, found VanDyke guilty.”


Unfortunately, there was no room for a follow-up question, and, while the premise of my question had been thoroughly considered, the actual question of how Black Chicagoans can be expected to trust the police to protect their rights was completely ignored. 

That question is central to the conversation about the future of police funding in our city, because if Black people don’t trust the police to protect them, then why should we be expected to pay them?

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) is an organization that stares that question in the face and thoroughly believes the answer lies within the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) model of reform. With a CPAC, citizens would be able to determine police funding and could defund the CPD to the degree that they deem reasonable. 

I attended the demonstration that CAARPR organized for the evening of Sept. 23 in honor of Breonna Taylor, and in defense of Black lives. The demonstration was held in Bronzeville, where protesters gathered at the corner of 35th and Michigan Avenue outside CPD headquarters. 

When I arrived there around 6:00 p.m., there was a small group of about 30 people gathered. Department of Water Management vehicles were used to block access to the CPD building and to block traffic at the intersection of 35th and Indiana. Police officers in riot gear lined up beside the truck blocking off foot traffic to the headquarters. 

The blockade makes the demonstration look like a standoff. Then, Tanya Watkins, an organizer with Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, held a megaphone up, leading the crowd in chants, and testifying passionately in the name of Breonna Taylor and countless other lives lost to state-sanctioned violence. 

“Black people are tired of having to be out here asking y’all to stop killing us,” Watkins said, visibly shaking. “But we will keep coming out here until we get justice.” A “No justice, no peace” chant began.

Within 30 minutes of being out there, the crowd more than tripled in size, and by the time the march began, there were more than 300 people gathered at the intersection. 

Organizers from various organizations were represented, including Lamar Whitfield of the #NoMore Foundation, Kobi Guillory of CAARPR and Destiny Harris of Dissenters to name a few. 

Harris referenced the press conference I had just attended, saying “The same mayor who got on television today saying how she was so in awe of what happened with Breonna Taylor, didn’t do shit to get Dante Servin punished for what he did to Rekia Boyd,” she said. “That ain’t right!”

As speakers continue, a cameraman in gear not marked for any television station migrated to the front of the crowd, accompanied by a man in a bulletproof vest that read “Officer.” The man in the vest had been standing on the side near the media and the police, and appeared to be a police officer. 

Immediately Watkins walked up to the men and directed them back to the sidelines. “Could you please not kill any Black people out here today, officer,” Watkins asks rhetorically. The men left the crowd. Next up was Frank Chapman of CAARPR.

“Whatever we do, we can’t let them think they can go unchecked,” he said. “If we can put thousands in the street, that’s great. If we can put hundreds in the streets that’s also great. But there has to always be somebody. Don’t let this shit go uncontested.” 

Nightfall is near at this point and Chapman issued some final words before we get moving. “Whose streets are these,” he asked, to which the crowd shouted back “ours.” “Can we march down these streets,” he hollered. “Yes!” the crowd shouts back. “Well damn it let’s start marching.”

Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE
Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

The crowd was still growing once we headed North on Indiana at around 7:00 p.m., and reached its peak when we finally gathered at Dunbar Park on 31st. There were families with children playing on the jungle gym when we first got there, but they all stopped to look as we marched through the path in the park up to a circle of benches. We surrounded the circle and a moment of silence was held in the name of Breonna Taylor…


We resumed with speeches and CAARPR’s Guillory is back up to the mic. He talked about Taylor’s case and her boyfriend’s wrongful arrest. “Free them all,” is the chant he raises, and as if summoned from the collective energy of the chant, an unexpected demonstrator appears before us. 

Local icon Dreadhead Cowboy — aka Adam Hollingsworth — is front and center. He informed the crowd that he was released from jail only two hours earlier after being arrested for riding his trusty steed on the Dan Ryan Expressway in the name of the many children lost to gun violence in Chicago.

Dreadhead Cowboy, aka Adam Hollingsworth. | Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE
Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

“I appreciate all the love and support everyone has given me,” he said. “Our voices need to be heard.” He ends by telling us that his horse was taken from him, and he is in the midst of a fight to get his companion back.

Dreadhead Cowboy’s appearance bookmarked the end of the night at this Bronzeville demonstration, and organizers began the now-customary practice of grouping protesters into carpools and ensuring that no one left alone. This practice is one that was borne out of the deeply held sentiment among Black Chicagoans that police are not to be trusted with our safety. Organizers have spoken to me in the past about being followed home from actions and harassed by officers who recognized them. 

This practice is an exercise of the ubiquitous call-and-response chant echoed at demonstrations all summer “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!” 

Taylor’s murder shows the fact that police can oftentimes not even be trusted to perform their regular duties without killing innocents. I remember being 16, wanting to go for an early morning jog on the lakefront trail and my mom stopping me as she saw me put my headphones in as I was headed out the door. 

She could hear the music from her seat at the living room table. “Turn those down,” she demanded. “Last thing I need is for officer dumbass to think you’re running from the scene of a crime, and kill you cause you didn’t hear them say stop.” 

So, for organizers setting up carpools, for Black women sleeping in their beds, for Black mothers like my own who can more likely expect their children to be shot by police than be rescued by them, I ask again of our mayor: How do you expect Black people to trust the police to protect their rights?

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.