They came with signs, of course.
From the classic “No Justice, No Peace” to the more contemporary “Wrong Generation to (expletive) With,” the mostly homemade signs and placards borne by nearly 500 people who participated in Sunday’s Justice for Breonna Taylor Women’s March attested both to the diversity of the crowd and the singularity of their purpose.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician from Louisville, Ky., was sleeping at home March 13 when police officers executing a no-knock warrant used a battering ram to break into her apartment. Believing the officers were intruders, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker reportedly fired a gun in their direction, hitting one of the officers in the leg. The officers returned fire, striking and killing Taylor with eight shots.
Photo Gallery: Hundreds rally in Honolulu for Breonna Taylor
The officers were executing the warrant in connection with a drug investigation involving two men, one of whom was already in police custody. Police said they believed that one of the men had used Taylor’s apartment to receive packages. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder for firing on the officers, but the charges were subsequently dropped. No officers were arrested or charged in the case.
To protest Taylor’s violent death, demonstrators at yesterday’s march brought with them Black Lives Matter signs and signs that pledged solidarity with the movement, from “Kanaka for Black Lives” to “Tu Lucha Es Mi Lucha” (“Your struggle is my struggle”). There were signs of warning (“Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”) and demand (“Defund the Police”) and plaintive plea (“Say Her Name”). There were signs not just of cardboard and poster-board, but surfboard (“More Aloha, Less Hate”) and bodyboard (“Stop Da Violence”). There was, even, a dog wearing a sign that pledged “Dogs for Black Lives.”
The afternoon march from Ala Moana Regional Park to the state Capitol trailed weeks of national protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Ashley Dee, one of the organizers, said the demonstration was intended to shed light on the specific plight of black women as victims of systemic racism and violence by law enforcement.
“Black women are always involved in the struggles of everybody else, but when it comes to us, we’re labeled as so ‘strong’ that people don’t think that we need to be checked on, that we don’t need to be fought for,” said Dee. “We’re on the front lines because we have to fight for our black men and our black boys, but we also have to fight for ourselves because police are killing us, too. We’re constantly overlooked.”
Dee, who is also from Louisville, said the lack of damning video like the one that brought Floyd’s case to national attention has also deprived black female victims of police violence the same level of prominence.
The issue was hammered home during a speech by 19-year-old Kylah Hughley of Salt Lake, who recited the first names of black men and boys killed by police and asked the crowd to shout out their last names.
“Michael,” she said.
“Brown!” they shouted back.
Later, she asked the crowd to perform the task again, this time listing black women and girls who had died at the hands of police.
It wasn’t until Hughley said “Sandra” and some in the crowd responded “Bland” — correctly identifying the 28-year-old black woman from Chicago who committed suicide in a Texas jail after being stopped for a turn-signal violation, shot with a stun gun and arrested — that the awkward silence was broken.
“How can we say their names if we don’t know their names?” Hughley said. “We have to intentionally make spaces for black women.”
Christopher Edwards, 30, of Manoa attributed the lack of awareness to something other than a lack of viral video.
“Misogyny, sexism,” he said. “Men have always had a level up even though women have delivered so much more for society. People think the problem is worse for black men, but black women grow up in the exact same situations. Black women have an astronomical incarceration rate alongside black men. The system wants to take the community down, so we need to stand for black women and we do everything we can for communities across the country where there is police violence.”
Toward the end of the two-hour rally at the Capitol, 32-year-old Destiny Sharion of Punchbowl took to the mike. Feeling the upbeat mood of the crowd, she elected to ditch her intended reading of a poem that grew out of her sexual assault by a police officer and instead read a rousing call to arms for racial justice. She finished her time by leading the crowd in a call-and-response chant until her voice finally broke and she walked off to the sound of the crowd beating their signs in thunderous affirmation.
“Say her name!”
“Say her name!”
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