University reacts to Breonna Taylor verdict

Members+of+Marquette+gathered+on+the+lawn+of+the+AMU+in+protest+of+the+recent+verdict.

Photo by Benjamin Wells

Members of Marquette gathered on the lawn of the AMU in protest of the recent verdict.

Marquette University community members organized a peaceful walkout and march that called for justice for Breonna Taylor after a grand jury on Wednesday ruled that none of the officers involved in her shooting would be charged with her death.

 Taylor was shot in her apartment after Louisville Metro Police Department officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove fired bullets into her apartment on March 13. Her death had been at the center of protests calling for racial justice across the country and has since resurfaced after news came out that only one of the officers involved would be charged with wanton endangerment of her neighbors.

However, one of the officers was charged with wanton endangerment of her neighbors, which is a Class D felony. In the state of Kentucky, this can be comparable to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon or unlawful use of a credit card.

The protest, which was organized by Black Student Council, started in front of the Alumni Memorial Union. Black Student Council leaders spoke about the recent verdict and their own personal struggles toward achieving racial justice in the world.

Dijana Zenelay, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, attended the Wednesday afternoon protest. She said she wasn’t surprised by the verdict since the city Louisville was put into a state of emergency before the verdict was even announced.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “They’re madder about the bullets that missed her instead of the bullets that hit her.”

As members of the protest started to meet on the lawn of the AMU, people began to let out chants of “Say Her Name” and “Breonna Taylor.”

“A lot of people aren’t happy with the verdict, we don’t really think justice has been served and we’re not happy,” Alanna Naegele, a junior in the College of Communication, said. “(Protests) are a good way to make people aware that we’re not happy with this.”

After members of Black Student Council spoke to the crowd, protests members marched to Wisconsin Ave. where they took up both sides of the street and marched through campus. Other members also made signs and handed them out throughout to people in the crowd with Breonna Taylor’s name on them.

While in the middle of the street, the crowd surrounded Lonny Clay, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Science, who poured out water in memory of Black men and women who had died at the hands of racially charged actions, like Ahmaud Arbery and Emmett Till, and Dontre Hamilton, who was shot by Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney in 2014.

Steve Robertson, associate director of pre-college programs for the Educational Opportunity Program, felt the need to encourage the voices of students by attending the protest.

“Many of (the students here) are going through the trauma of being Black,” Robertson said.

Robertson was a student at Marquette in the ’80s. He said that while some changes have been made since he’s graduated, a lot has remained the same.

“I want to encourage (Black students) to use their voices and voice their frustration and not just internalize it,” Robertson said.

Alongside members of the men’s basketball team, forward and senior in the College of Communication Theo John was at the protest handing out water and Gatorade.

“With everything going on, it’s my obligation to be here,” John said. “Oftentimes as a basketball player they see us ‘separate’ but today I’m a Black man walking the streets, just the same as these folks. It’s good to see that, and good to see people coming together for something that needs to be changed.”

Protesters then stopped for a brief break in front of the Milwaukee Police Department’s first district precinct and made plans to gather students from Milwaukee Area Technical College, Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

University spokesperson Chris Stolarski said the university feels proud of students who have actively taken a stance for racial justice. He said that the university fully supports these students and that these actions are necessary to affect change on campus and throughout the community.

“The Marquette community continues to offer our prayers to the family and friends of Breonna Taylor, the people of Louisville, and everyone affected by racial injustice and violence,” Stolarski said in an email.

A protest unaffiliated with Marquette also passed through campus the night the verdict was announced. Cassie Gunderson, a first-year in the College of Arts & Sciences, attended.

“What’s going on with Breonna Taylor is super unfortunate, but it’s something that isn’t uncommon at all in this country,” Gunderson said. “We see a pattern of police killing … Black people without them being brought to justice … I think it’s important that we don’t let her just become another name.”

This story was written by Ben Wells. He can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu.