BELOIT — Protesters gathered in Riverside Park Saturday and said they were ready to walk for up to four hours to prevent injustices, which is how they felt about the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
“It’s important for people to disrupt the norm to call attention to issues hard to discuss. We hope this provides an incentive for Rock County leaders to have conversations about improving the criminal justice system,” said marcher Megan Miller, who is also Beloit Board of Education Vice President.
“I’m supporting the cause of fighting racial injustice in America and Beloit. Systemic racism is real and built into society,” said marcher Tim Krause.
On Saturday, about 40 protesters gathered in Riverside Park before marching to the Rock County Courthouse in Janesville along Highway 51 to voice opposition to the shooting death of Taylor, which involved Louisville, Kentucky police. About half of the protesters showed up for support and to drive alongside the group, with the other half ready to make the journey by foot with rain looming. The protesters were wearing face masks to stay safe in light of COVID-19. They also had people spaced 7 feet apart by using a marked rope as they walked.
The event was organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and was in response to the shooting death of Taylor—a 26-year-old Black medical worker. She was shot as three police officers were trying to execute a search warrant at her apartment on March 13.
Although police said the officers announced who they were, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he couldn’t hear when they forced entry into the apartment and he thought they were intruders. Walker said he fired a warning shot which resulted in an officer getting hit in the leg. Police fired into the home and Taylor was killed.
On Sept. 23, a grand jury indicted one of the three officers involved in Taylor’s death with wanton endangerment for firing shots that went into another home with people inside. The other two officers were not indicted in the case, with the grand jury saying the officers were justified in firing their weapons because Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot at police.
No homicide charges have been filed in the case. On Oct. 2 audio records of the grand jury proceedings were released which might shed more light on what jurors heard in the case.
March organizer Yusuf Adama said he thought the worst scenario in the Taylor case would be the officers not going to jail. Then he said he learned one only got in trouble for bullets that hit White houses.
Although Adama said Rock County has not had an incident like Taylor’s occur, he said it’s important to be proactive. He stressed that no-knock warrant execution is allowable in the county. He said police also need to work on reforming qualified immunity laws.
A great revolution is afoot, Adama said, but energy needs to be applied steadily and not just when engaging in tragedy.
Stacey Dyer, formerly of Beloit, said although law enforcement is one area that needs addressing, there needs to be more opportunities in places such as Beloit other than factory work or Amazon jobs. Increased access to education to help minorities get into more skilled jobs with more opportunity for advancement in their careers is a must.
Ben Katz said he was at the event to support SURJ and to promote discussion regarding no-knock warrants.
Kyle Blair, who was living in Chicago until he moved back in with his mom in Beloit because of the pandemic, said he was glad there was an in-person event he could join. He said it’s important to do actions in addition to posting on social media. At age 33, Blair said he was a bit humbled that he was only beginning to understand his white privilege. He said he had solid support systems and good opportunities in his life and is realizing how others do not have the same. Because many white people don’t see racism in their day-to-day lives and only on TV, they may doubt it exists. He said only seeing in the news shows the extent of their privilege in that it’s separate from their lives.
He said being able to learn about racism, as opposed to living it, is privilege in itself. He was eager to walk the entire route. If people find themselves in a place of privilege, or even prosperity, he said it’s important to give back, even if that’s just changing one’s mindset.