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Small downtown vigil held after Breonna Taylor grand jury findings released


On a mild summer Wednesday night in downtown Reno at City Plaza, a few dozen people came together for a candlelight vigil in honor of Breonna Taylor. 

Taylor was shot to death by Louisville Metropolitan Police officers on March 13 when they entered her home while conducting a no-knock search warrant.

Her case became the moniker of a national call to action and an often repeated statement within the Black Lives Matter movement that is heard in chants calling “Say Her Name.”

During the course of the vigil, attendees congregated in front of the BELIEVE sculpture to discuss and assess the current moment in time. Several attendees spoke about why they came, and what their thoughts were about the decision by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron on the shooting death of the 26 year-old emergency room technician Taylor. 

Breonna Taylor’s death has been a part of Black Lives Matter at Reno rallies for months, including an event in mid-June. Image: Eric Marks

Earlier on Wednesday, Cameron, who has been named as a potential Supreme Court nominee by President Trump, held a press conference announcing the findings in the case. A 12-member Jefferson County Grand Jury indicted former Louisville Metro Police Department officer Brett Hankison, who was fired from his job, on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for allegedly blindly firing shots into Taylor’s apartment and endangering neighboring residents.

The charges were announced by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell.

The officer who fired the shot that was determined to have killed Taylor was not indicted. Neither Detective Miles Cosgrove nor Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly were charged. Presently, there is an FBI investigation ongoing into potential violations of federal laws.

Cameron stated, “Our investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire after being fired upon” by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.

The event to honor Taylor in downtown Reno on Wednesday was not centrally organized by any particular group. It appears to have been organized by an individual actor who spontaneously put together a Facebook event after work.

Two women at the event spoke with This Is Reno using only their first names. 

“I just wanted to show up for the town and make it known that this is still an important issue and that today’s ruling is not okay and not aligned with the viewpoints of the citizens here,” said Reno resident Taylor. “Here, locally, in Reno, there should still be an active response to the Black Lives Matter movement because I don’t think enough has been done here locally or nationally. Tonight’s just a good reason to get to get together and kind of readdress that visibility.”

The otherwoman, Olivia, said, “I’m here today because when I see injustices done…such as the murder of a woman in her sleep, and then I see the system fail her and continues to fail people like her, I want to do what I can to make the community better.”

Throughout the night, a number of people in attendance shared their thoughts about the incident during a Facebook livestream.

Sadly, though, as the night concluded, the scene and atmosphere of downtown Reno was marred by intoxicated people who disturbed attendees and proved to be  a distraction. These disturbances didn’t take away from the focus of the moment for many.

The first incident involved Reno Police arresting an intoxicated individual on the north side of City Plaza. Attendees filmed the police during the arrest, some shouting at them to “get a real job” and “toss that badge in the river” and “stop terrorizing your community.”

The second incident occurred as the event had just ended and a small group of attendees were attempting to leave the area. At the intersection of First and Virginia streets, directly across from City Hall, a highly intoxicated passerby attempted repeatedly to harangue attendees for multiple reasons, including for their sexual orientation. The same individual had attempted to accost and interact with vigil attendees earlier in the night. 

This incident eventually ended with the assailant’s quick arrest by Reno Police and the discovery of a small pocket knife he was carrying. The man and a woman, who is believed to be his daughter, attempted to start a fight with vigil attendees as they were leaving the event. During the second arrest, vigil attendees did not shout at the arresting officers.

This Is Reno’s Don Dike-Anukam, unfortunately, was involved as a witness to the assault and filed a police report as a witness to the incident.

Aside from its tumultuous end, the Breonna Taylor vigil in downtown Reno was a peaceful and somber affair, which set the scene to bring members of a collection of local social justice groups and activists together in a common cause, in a reminder of a task at hand.

Don Dike Anukam
Don Dike Anukam
Don Dike-Anukam is a Reno native attending college in northern Nevada. He has been involved in activist politics for 15 years on and off, and has been involved in multiple campaigns in multiple positions in that time. He also was a college radio political, news, and talk-show host covering a range of stories from hostage standoffs, fires, interviews, and public speeches.