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Sonoma County activists march to protest grand jury decision in death of Breonna Taylor

About 200 Sonoma County activists gathered at Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square Wednesday night to decry a grand jury decision to not charge officers for the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot in March by Louisville police officers serving a warrant during a raid of her home.

“We’re not here because it ended, that’s the bad part,” one of the organizers told the group through a megaphone, recalling protests held in the city’s core in May and June following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

A group of about 150 protesters entered Highway 101 and began marching north late Wednesday.

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation — although state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday the investigation showed the officers did announce themselves before entering, contradicting statements from some witnesses.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he did not hear the officers announce themselves, opened fire when police burst in, hitting one of the officers, who returned fire. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but the charges were later dropped.

The warrant used to search Taylor’s home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

The local demonstration came on the same day a Kentucky grand jury declined to bring charges against Louisville police for the killing of Taylor. They determined two of the officers in the raid were justified in firing their weapons at her.

A third officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into her neighbor’s homes indiscriminately during the March 13 raid.

The outcome fell far short of repeated demands by activists across the country to arrest the officers who shot Taylor for the shooting itself.

“After I heard the verdict, I was like ‘I have to show support,’” said Steph Sevila, a 30-year-old Santa Rosa woman who attended Wednesday’s gathering, her 17-month-old daughter in her arms as she marched.

“It’s her future,” Sevila said, looking down at her daughter.

The local event kicked off at around 8 p.m. at the city’s square with the sound of chanting from a group of about 130 people, a snare drum and bagpipes echoing through the area.

The noise was enough to draw in Kelema Moses, a woman who was visiting Santa Rosa on a work trip from Georgia, to the crowd after dinner at the nearby Third Street Aleworks.

She joined in as the group shouted “Black Lives Matter” and the call-and-repeat chant “Say her name,” “Breonna Taylor.”

“With everything that happened today with Breonna Taylor, it’s important that we are here making our voices heard,” Moses said.

Wednesday’s local gathering was organized by a group called SOCO Rebellion, fliers for the event shared on social media said.

A Facebook page for the gathering identified as organizers Tavy Tornado, the founder of the local group Love and Light, and Kimmie Barbosa and Seyshelle Diaz, two other people involved in activism in Sonoma County in recent months.

The group took to the city’s streets soon after the event began, marching east on Fourth Street near Old Courthouse Square as diners from local restaurants stopped their meals to watch the demonstration. One organizer told the group they wanted to let people eating nearby know “whose life matters.”

Some spectators held their fists up in apparent support for the protesters as they marched, while others recorded the procession on their phones.

The group, many of whom were masked to comply with public health guidelines related to the coronavirus, then looped back onto Third Street and toward the square, taking a moment to kneel in silence for Taylor when they arrived at Santa Rosa Avenue. Demonstrators then made their way north on Mendocino Avenue toward College Avenue, following the beat of the snare drummer, before about 150 of them entered the freeway about 9 p.m.

This article includes information from the Associated Press. You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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