'Love, Support For One Another, Resistance': What Protests Look Like In Louisville
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
To Louisville, Ky., now - it has also been a center of protest after police there killed a local woman named Breonna Taylor. She was an EMT, shot while she was sleeping in her own apartment as officers executed a no-knock warrant back in March. Now the National Guard, state troopers and local police have come out in force. Earlier this week, a man named David McAtee was shot and killed while he was barbecuing for a crowd. We'll hear more about him in another part of the program. Our co-host Ari Shapiro is in Louisville. And he introduces us next to one community leader who's been out marching with her daughter.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Rep. Attica Scott is the only black woman serving in the Kentucky state legislature.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Good morning.
SHAPIRO: How are you? Good morning. I love your colorful mask.
ATTICA SCOTT: Oh, thank you.
We met up in the shade of her backyard in West Louisville, ripe mulberries hanging from the trees nearby. And as we talked, the sound of a train horn kept punctuating the conversation.
(SOUNDBITE OF HORN SOUNDING)
SHAPIRO: Scott told me that sound says a lot about the disparities between majority-black neighborhoods like this one in West Louisville and whiter wealthier areas on the east side of town.
SCOTT: In the East End, they have quiet zones. Trains can't blow their horns. We've been trying for decades to get that in West Louisville so that kids can sleep at night and not have to get up at 6 in the morning to go to school with two or three hours of sleep because the train horn blew all night. It's all part of it.
SHAPIRO: Scott marched downtown Friday night with her teenage daughter, and I asked her to tell me about what happened.
SCOTT: For five amazing hours, it was beautiful - love, support for one another, resistance; of course, civil disobedience. And I love to see the young black man who, when vehicles would try to drive through the line of people who were locking arms, they'd walk up to the driver and say, we love you, but you can't come this way. You have to turn around. Everything was in love until law enforcement showed up, and then that's when things became violent. I walked up to the line where the police were, and immediately, there was an officer who made his way directly to me to start pushing and shoving me without ever opening his mouth, without saying a word.
SHAPIRO: Just physical contact before even...
SCOTT: Just - I'm five feet even. This guy had to be over six feet and just started pushing against me, no word whatsoever.
SHAPIRO: Did you, at any point, say, I'm an elected representative. Did you...
SCOTT: I didn't want to even do that.
SCOTT: It wasn't necessary. I don't - I'm here in solidarity with my neighbors, my constituents, my friends, my family. I shouldn't have to single myself out as if I'm special or different. You should respect and value all of us. And so you're advancing on us, and we're being peaceful. We're singing. We're playing music. We marched around the block. We marched around the police department. And never once was there an act of vandalism or violence.
SHAPIRO: And it intensified from there, right?
SCOTT: Quickly, within 10 minutes - I mean, minding my business, talking to a friend, and boom. And I couldn't believe it. I mean, I got separated from my daughter. She was literally across the street. But the tear gas smoke was so thick, and my eyes were burning and throat burning that I couldn't even get across the street to my daughter. And she was terrified. And I'm falling, running. At one point, I'm blind by my mask because I couldn't keep it over my mouth because I had to put it over my eyes.
SHAPIRO: That was five days ago now.
SHAPIRO: In hindsight, how do you think about the way that experience that you had on Friday night fits into the larger issue that is leading to these protests and what's going on right now?
SCOTT: I mean, it's an example of why people are rising up. There's the violence, of course, that people are protesting against from police, from the people who are supposed to protect and serve us. There are also the inequities that we experience every single day. And all of that is enough. It is enough, and people are saying, it's enough, and that all of our elected officials from local, state and federal government have got to step up and take care of people.
SHAPIRO: The inequities that we experience every single day - spell that out.
SCOTT: I can't spell it. We're in my neighborhood, predominantly black part of Louisville - West Louisville. You can see it when you drive through the neighborhoods - abandoned and vacant properties, boarded-up buildings, the lack of economic development and investment. You can see it when you drive through. You can see one grocery store; one place for people to go and get their groceries. That's it That's it. And so it's - it can be devastating. But it's also why I stay. I was born and raised in West Louisville, and I stay because there's work to do.
SHAPIRO: So when you think about the younger generation, what your daughter has experienced, what lessons do you think young people are taking from what they've seen in this last week?
SCOTT: I think they're taking away love. So they know from community, from people, from neighbors and from friends, there's love. I'm disappointed, though, because they're also receiving the message that police are here to abuse them not protect them. And so I hope from here that they take those messages and say, well, then it's going to take us to transform the systems in which we operate, dismantle them, break them down and build something that works for all of us.
SHAPIRO: Do you take any hope from the fact that the chief of police was fired, that there have been consequences?
SCOTT: There haven't been any consequences. He was going to retire July 1 anyway. And he's going to get his full benefits. There haven't been any real consequences. The three officers who murdered Breonna Taylor are still employed by the Louisville Metro Police Department. That's not a consequence at all.
SHAPIRO: You've been working on these issues for a long time here in Louisville, and now the whole country is paying attention. What impact do you think this is having?
SCOTT: It's - at least for those - for the folks who are on the ground, it's so helpful to have our story go outside of Louisville and outside of Kentucky because if we only contained it here, we wouldn't get anything - much of anything done for real because we have people who will placate, right? There are people who will do just enough to feel like they can silence us. But having this be part of a national narrative sends a message that no place is unique, really. You know, we're all experiencing these systemic issues that we have to dismantle. I also believe that it's making more Louisvillians (ph) who, you know, would not otherwise be paying attention because they don't see it happening to them pay attention because they're like, wait a minute. Other people outside of Louisville are talking about us. And why? People should be asking themselves, why am I allowing my tax dollars to feed this violence?
SHAPIRO: Rep. Attica Scott, thank you so much for talking with us.
SCOTT: I appreciate you so much. Thank you.
SHAPIRO: We also asked to sit down with the Louisville police department, and they declined our interview request.
KELLY: That is our co-host Ari Shapiro in Louisville, talking there with Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.