Louisville drops curfew; legislator questions rioting law
Louisville, Ky. — The curfew has been lifted in Louisville, where many people have been charged with refusing to stop their nighttime protests after a grand jury's decision not to charge officers in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he allowed the curfew to expire as of 6:30 a.m. Monday.
“The curfew served its purpose of helping ensure that most people were home safe by 9 p.m., because our past experience had shown that most violence and destruction occurs after dark,” the mayor's statement said.
“We sadly saw some violence, including the shooting of two police officers, one of whom remains hospitalized, dealing with complications of his injuries. But we believe the curfew helped, by ensuring fewer people were out late in the day.”
Fischer said barriers and traffic restrictions set up downtown last week will remain but will be assessed daily.
Meanwhile, Kentucky state Rep. Lisa Willner, a Louisville Democrat, said Monday that she's starting to craft legislation that would narrow the scope of the state's rioting statute.
Her proposal, which she intends to offer in next year’s legislative session, would protect people from being charged with first-degree rioting if they’re present but don’t engage in destructive or violent actions. Her response comes after Democratic state Rep. Attica Scott was charged with the felony last week while participating in Louisville protests for racial justice.
“This is not any attempt at all to weaken the current law," Willner said in a phone interview. “It’s just to make sure that people who are peacefully protesting, who are merely exercising their First Amendment rights, are clearly not engaging in rioting.”
Scott was among demonstrators who converged in downtown Louisville to express their disagreement with the grand jury decision. Many marched along Louisville’s streets chanting “Breonna Taylor, say her name,” and “no justice, no peace."
Taylor was shot multiple times March 13 after her boyfriend opened fire as officers entered her home during a narcotics raid, authorities said. Taylor’s boyfriend said he didn’t know who was coming in and fired in self-defense. One officer was wounded.
The grand jury indicted one officer, who was already fired, on wanton endangerment charges, saying he shot repeatedly and blindly fired shots that could have hit Taylor's neighbors.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the other officers were not charged with Taylor’s killing because they acted to protect themselves.
Scott, the state’s only Black woman representative, was arrested and charged Thursday night with the felony of first-degree rioting as well as unlawful assembly and failure to disperse, which are misdemeanor offenses.
Police said Scott was in a group whose members damaged buildings and set fire to a library.
Scott called the charges “ludicrous” and said she would never be involved in setting fire to a library. She said she was arrested as she walked with her daughter to the sanctuary of a church.
Kentucky law defines a riot as a public disturbance involving five or more people "which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.”
The law defines first-degree rioting as knowingly participating in a riot that causes injury to a person who is not rioting or causes substantial property damage.
Scott said she and her daughter were driving from a protest to a church that offered refuge to people who would otherwise be caught violating the curfew when police blocked their route, so they parked and walked to the church instead. Officers then converged on them to make arrests before the curfew took effect, Scott said.
“LMPD swarmed us,” Scott said. “They started yelling, ‘Circle ‘em, circle ‘em.’ They wouldn’t let us leave to go back to our vehicle. And they wouldn’t let us literally cross the street to get to the church and sanctuary.”
Willner said Scott’s arrest “raises the question of how many others have been accused of rioting in the first degree — which is a felony — who are facing loss of voting rights, simply by being present.”
“We can make the language much clearer so that in order for a person to be convicted for riot in the first degree, it should be clear that they participated in the unlawful action by engaging in violent or destructive acts or by complicitly encouraging others to engage in violent or destructive acts,” she said.
Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Kentucky legislature.