'War on Us': Black Women Rally in Oakland for Breonna Taylor

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About 100 people attended a rally organized by Bay Area Black women leaders to protest the decision of a Kentucky grand jury not to charge any police officers for the death of Breonna Taylor.  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

They raised their voices in anger, pain and poetry, speaking words of protest and calling for action in the wake of a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to charge any Louisville police officers for the death of Breonna Taylor.

One after another, Black women representing Bay Area community organizing groups weighed in Thursday morning during a rally in front of an Oakland mural honoring Taylor at 15th and Broadway.

“Breonna Taylor did not die in a vacuum. She died inside of a paradigm in this country where the lives of Black women and girls do not matter,” said Cat Brooks, one of the event’s organizers and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project.

“I want to be really clear that what happened to Breonna Taylor was part and parcel and pattern of the war that is daily waged on our lives and we’ve got to start talking about it.”

Cat Brooks (L) and Carroll Fife (R) speak at a Sept. 24, 2020, rally in Oakland to protest a Kentucky grand jury's decision not to charge any officers for the death of Breonna Taylor.
Cat Brooks (L) and Carroll Fife (R) speak at a Sept. 24, 2020, rally in Oakland to protest a Kentucky grand jury's decision not to charge any officers for the death of Breonna Taylor. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her Louisville home on a "no-knock" warrant as part of a botched drug raid in March. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

On Wednesday, grand jurors brought only one indictment against an officer for the reckless use of a gun. Brett Hankison, who has since been dismissed from the force, was charged with three counts of "wanton endangerment" for firing into Taylor’s neighbors’ apartment.

The two other officers whose bullets hit Taylor were not charged at all.

Protests began erupting across the country immediately, and in the Bay Area, lawmakers and community leaders called the grand jury’s decision “deeply wrong,” “devastating” and the result of structural racism in the criminal justice system.

Ayodele Nzinga, director of Lower Bottom Playaz, speaks out against the killings of Breonna Taylor and other Black women by police, at a rally in Oakland on Sept. 24, 2020.
Ayodele Nzinga, executive director of The Lower Bottom Playaz, speaks out against the killings of Breonna Taylor and other Black women by police, at a rally in Oakland on Sept. 24, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“I didn't bring poetry for you. I brought the truth,” Ayodele Nzinga, executive director of Black performing arts group The Lower Bottom Playaz, told a crowd of approximately 150 people.

“There's a war going on. There's a war on Black bodies. There's a war on truth in a country that refuses to recognize that this country sits on a foundation of white hubris and white supremacy and extractive capitalism. That’s good for nobody, not even white people.”

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“I have no more tears,” said Carroll Fife, executive director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

“I knew the outcome would be what it is. I knew that. But my heart is still ripped from my chest ... I know what I want to say will get me arrested and indicted for more than the officers who got away with killing this woman.”

The speakers called for police reform, racial justice, better access to health care and housing equity.

Dominique Walker, whose group Moms 4 Housing organized occupations of vacant homes to call attention to gentrification and the housing crisis in Oakland spoke about systemic inequities.

Moms 4 Housing activist Dominique Walker speaks out against the police killing of Breonna Taylor in front of a mural honoring Taylor on 15th and Broadway in Oakland on Sept. 24, 2020.
Moms 4 Housing activist Dominique Walker speaks out against the police killing of Breonna Taylor in front of a mural honoring Taylor on 15th and Broadway in Oakland on Sept. 24, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“It’s war on us and we need to get prepared for what’s happening," Walker said.

"There's about to be mad evictions. Folks on the street. It’s going to affect Black folks and brown folks the most.”

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Bay Area Black women leaders held a rally to speak out against a Kentucky grand jury's decision not to charge any police officers for killing Breonna Taylor.
Bay Area Black women leaders held a rally to speak out against a Kentucky grand jury's decision not to charge any police officers for killing Breonna Taylor. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

"Say her name," several speakers said in a call-and-response with the crowd.

"Breonna Taylor," the crowd chanted back.

"Aiyana Stanley-Jones."

"Kayla Moore."

"Nia Wilson."

It was a sobering list of names, all Black girls and women who died before their time.