Joy Reid's eminent panel spoke extensively on the Louisville EMT who was gunned down by cops for "sleeping-while-Black," but none with more fire than activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham.
May 16, 2020

You have hopefully heard already about Ahmaud Arbery's modern-day lynching for the crime of jogging-while black. That it took nearly two months for the crime to reach national consciousness is depressingly predictable, but the resulting outrage has spurred some action, finally.

Have you had your heart broken by Breonna Taylor's story, yet, though? This one took place in Louisville, KY, and took even longer than Mr. Arbery's to be elevated to the national spotlight. Ms. Taylor was a young woman sleeping in what should have been the safety of her own bed, when undercover police broke into her home without announcing themselves, and shot her to death as her boyfriend tried to protect them both. She was an EMT. She wanted to become a nurse. She was 26.

Elie Mystal wrote in The Nation that she was killed for the crime of "sleeping-while-Black."

Police claim they announced themselves before using some type of battering ram to force their way in, but witnesses say the police did not identify themselves as police officers. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, says he believed they were being robbed and fired a gun at police, striking one officer in the leg. Police responded with a hail of gunfire. The police shot Taylor, who was unarmed, at least eight times, killing her. They then arrested and charged Walker with attempted murder of a police officer.

The police say they were looking for evidence against a suspect in an ongoing narcotics investigation. That suspect lives 10 miles away from Taylor’s home. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.

In his piece, Mystal takes to task two American institutions charged with protecting our freedom: the media and the Supreme Court. Both of those venerated pillars continue to crumble in the face of racist police killings, and Mystal dissects how with surgical precision. He concludes:

Almost every major institutional actor in this country chooses to let the cops get away with murder. The media makes this choice every time it decides to reprint a police report, uncritically, as if the cops can be trusted to represent the truth. Judges make this choice when they sign open-ended search warrants, or retroactively admit evidence obtained without a warrant at all. Mayors and governors make this choice when they seek the endorsement of police unions and bend over backwards to keep those unions happy. And prosecutors, juries, and justices make this choice when they refuse to hold cops criminally or financially accountable for their crimes.

On AM Joy this morning, Joy Reid spent at least half her show devoted to this tragic execution, her guest list a virtual rolodex of Civil Rights powerhouse thinkers and doers. None was more passionate, though, than Brittany Packnett Cunningham.

When Reid asked her about the brazen dishonesty of the police in how they have changed their story, and misled and lied to Ms. Taylor's mother, Cunningham spoke from the fire in her heart to Louisville's mayor, Greg Fischer, who as of today has STILL not reached out to Ms. Taylor's family, nor has the police released Kenneth Walker, her boyfriend who shot a police officer in the leg thinking their home was being invaded.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, as someone who has been working on issues of police violence for a number of years now, this is something we have to remind people of all the time, that not only are police often unfortunately dishonest, there is a system built to protect and in some ways encourage their dishonesty. That there are a number of police bills of rights and police union contracts that protect and create space for that kind of dishonesty. That in some cases, that it's actually illegal to question police officers when they have killed somebody for a certain amount of time, and sometimes police officers are actually able to see the evidence that will be used against them when they have taken somebody's life. These are the kinds of things that activists like Chanelle, and so many others have been trying to fight back against and trying to make sure that things like citizens review boards, that have subpoena power, can be made available in cities like Louisville to be able to prevent more cases like Breonna's. To be able to prevent more cases like Kenneth's from happening.

I want to go back to Erin's point because it's so critical. Breonna was essential, not just as a worker but also as a human being. Attorney Crump made the point so eloquently, Black women's lives matter, too, and after over 61 days we had to work so hard to make Breonna's story go viral just to make people say her name. And if I can take off my commentator hat for a moment and put on my activist hat, and my Ferguson commissioner hat, and my Obama policing task force hat, and frankly just my hat as a Black woman with breath in her body, I want to speak directly to Mayor Greg Fisher, because he should be sitting on this panel too. He should have a whole lot more to say than he has.

Mayor Fisher, Tameka Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother is your constituent, and she pays your salary. Breonna Taylor was saving your city, and after two months you have had nothing to say to her mother, and no one has been held to account for Breonna Taylor's death. She did NOT take her own life. It was YOUR officers who pumped eight bullet into her body while she was laying in her bed. Someone, you and your officers will have to pay for that and we are tired, sick and tired of our elected officials not taking accountability for what happens to our people.

Few Black people are remotely surprised by any of this. What is needed is for white people to fix it. We created these racist institutions and protections for people and traditions that perpetuate these abhorrent tragedies to occur. Let's be real. We have the resources to untangle them and fix them, too, but we're simply choosing not to.

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