What was supposed to be a peaceful protest in Louisville, Kentucky over the police killing of Breonna Taylor, got ugly when an all white armed militia came face to face with an all Black armed militia.
It was supposed to be a March against police brutality organized by the Black Lives Matter movement, however, the “Three Percenter”, a white supremacist group announced that they would be at the march and carrying arms. As as result, members of the “Not Fucking Around Coalition,” an all-Black militia decided to send members to the rally as added protection to the peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.
Louisville police confirmed three people were injured due to the “discharge of someone’s gun” as members of the “Not Fucking Around Coalition,” an all-Black militia, gathered in Baxter Park shortly before 1 p.m.
The victims, all of whom were members of NFAC, were transferred to the University of Louisville Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the police department said. There were no outstanding suspects.
The group’s founder, Atlanta-based rapper and DJ John “Jay” Johnson, said in a YouTube video that the march was a response to the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers serving a no-knock warrant on her apartment in March. Her death and those of other Black Americans sparked widespread protests this summer over racism and police violence.
The NFAC was formed this summer by Johnson, who refers to himself as the “Official Grant Master Jay.” He previously assembled about 1,000 militia members to march through Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park in protest of a confederate monument there. For Saturday’s rally, he asked members to arrive armed and dressed in black.
About 200 NFAC members—some from as far away as Oregon—answered the call, according to reporters on the ground, gathering in Baxter Park Saturday morning before a planned march to Jefferson Square Park. Dozens of Three Percenters also showed up in camouflage and carrying guns. Black Lives Matter protesters, unaffiliated with either group, also showed up to protest.
By 11:30 a.m., before NFAC had even started their march, police in riot gear had erected a barricade to separate the Three Percenters from Black Lives Matter protesters, which did not stop the opposing sides from chanting and yelling at each other. One Black Lives Matter protesters who tried to walk through the police barricade was arrested, according to videos posted on Twitter by Courier-Journal reporter Hayes Gardner.
Shots rang out in Baxter Park shortly before 1 p.m., and medics arrived on the scene minutes later. The NFAC ordered members to take a knee as the situation developed.
The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department said an investigation was ongoing.
“This is a tragic situation that could have been much worse,” Chief Robert Schroeder said in a statement. “I encourage anyone exercising their Second Amendment Rights to do so responsibly.”
Tensions in Louisville were already high after a 27-year-old photographer was shot and killed last month during another protest against Taylor’s death. (Officials say another demonstrator unintentionally shot the photographer, Tyler Gerth, during a disturbance at the protest. The man has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and first degree wanton endangerment.) Experts said the dueling militias would likely exacerbate the situation.
“I am deathly afraid of a street war,” extremism expert J.J. MacNab previously told WFPL News. “We’ve got too many opposing factions who are all too heavily armed.”
Taylor, an EMT who worked for two local hospitals, and her boyfriend were asleep in their apartment on March 13 when three officers executed a “no-knock” search warrant looking for a suspected drug dealer who lived in a different part of town. Her boyfriend fired a warning shot as he thought they were being burglarized. It prompted officers to return fire at least a dozen times.
Authorities obtained the warrant to raid Taylor’s home because they claimed she used to date the suspected drug dealer and was receiving mail on his behalf. However, her family have argued in a lawsuit that there was no evidence to show Taylor or her boyfriend had any link to drug dealing or any criminal history of drugs of violence.
One officer has been fired for his role in obtaining the warrant and the Louisville Metro Police Department said it would no longer use “no-knock” warrants. However, protesters have demanded all three officers be charged.
In a tweet Saturday, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he understood the desire for truth and asked for that—not violence—to be the focus of the protests.
“We continue to work diligently in pursuit of the truth by conducting an independent investigation into the death of Ms. Taylor,” he wrote.