Breonna Taylor’s family won a $12m settlement, but their fight for justice is far from over

Written by Lauren Geall

Breonna Taylor’s lawyer said getting a $12 million settlement from the city of Louisville, Kentucky is just “one layer” in the family’s mission to seek justice – now more than ever, we need to continue to say her name. 

It’s been just over six months since 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police in her home.

The shooting – which preceded the death of George Floyd – has become yet another example of the painful and dangerous reality Black people continue to face in many countries, so much so that Taylor’s face has made appearances on Black Lives Matter protest banners and murals across the globe.

But despite the best efforts of Taylor’s family and protestors across the globe, the fight to get real, tangible justice for this horrific loss of life continues.

If you’ve been reading the news this week, you’ll have heard about the latest update in this ongoing case. On Tuesday (16 September), the city of Louisville, Kentucky agreed to pay Taylor’s family a $12 million settlement – reportedly the largest financial sum paid in a police misconduct case in the city’s history. They also agreed to a number of key reforms to policing in the city, including a requirement to have all search warrants approved by a senior officer. 

This is, of course, a step in the right direction for Taylor’s family. But what it isn’t is proper, proportionate justice for a young woman whose life was stolen from her.

Speaking after the settlement was announced, Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer described the settlement as “only the beginning” of her battle to seek justice and stressed the importance of pursuing criminal charges for the police officers who fatally wounded her daughter.

“As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” she said. “We must not lose focus on what the real job is, and with that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges, because she deserves that and much more.”

Palmer continued: “Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through us all on the ground, so please continue to say her name. Breonna Taylor.”

The Taylor family’s lawyer Lonita Baker echoed Palmer’s statement, describing the settlement as just one “layer” in the family’s mission to seek justice.

“Justice for Breonna is multi-layered,” she explained. “What we were able to accomplish today through the civil settlement against the officers is tremendous, but it’s only a portion of a single layer.

“When officers cause the death of an individual it is imperative that we seek justice, not only in the criminal system, but also in our civil system.”

Baker continued: “It’s important to know here that a financial settlement was non-negotiable without significant police reform. And that’s what we were able to do today. Today what we did what we could do to bring a little bit of police reform and it’s just a start. But we finished the first mile in the marathon and we’ve got a lot more miles to go to until we achieve and cross that finish line.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, died when she was shot at least five times by police officers who used a “no-knock” warrant to enter her home in the middle of the night. The warrant was granted as part of a drug investigation into her ex-boyfriend, whom police believed had used Taylor’s address to receive parcels – it has since been confirmed that no drugs were found at her address.

Taylor and her partner, Kenneth Walker, who had been in bed on the night of the shooting, got up when they heard a loud banging at the door.

After the officers broke the door off its hinges and barged into the house, Walker, who believed the men to be intruders, fired one shot in defence and hit one of the officers in the thigh.

In response, the police fired several shots, at least five of which hit Taylor. She died soon after on her hallway floor.

Since those events in March of this year, Taylor’s family have been fighting for the police officers involved – Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove – to face criminal charges for their actions, as well as campaigning for police reform.

At an earlier stage in the case, Taylor’s family saw the first glimmer of justice with the passing of Breonna’s law, which saw the use of controversial “no-knock” warrants – like the one used in Taylor’s case – banned in Louisville, Kentucky. But since then, the family have struggled to make progress.

Most notably, none of the officers involved in Taylor’s death have been arrested or charged with any crime, and only Hankison has been formally fired. Mattingly and Cosgrove have been placed on administrative reassignment.

This last fact alone shows just how important it is that we continue to say Breonna Taylor’s name.

In the case of George Floyd – a Black man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota – public pressure from protestors in the city and marches around the world means that those involved are currently facing murder charges (the trial date is currently set for 8 March 2021).

And it’s not just Taylor’s name we should be shouting from the rooftops. It’s Jacob Blake – who was left paralysed from the waist down after he was shot seven times in the back while his children were in the car. It’s Ahmaud Arbery – who was out jogging when he was fatally shot by two white men while another man filmed the confrontation. And that’s not forgetting Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. Or here, in the UK, with Belly Mujinga, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry. 

If we want to see a future where Black people aren’t murdered for the colour of their skin, we need to keep saying the names of people like Taylor and ensuring that their families get justice. 

The anti-racism movement is still just as important as it was when it was trending on Twitter a couple of months ago – and if we want to see real change, it’s all of our responsibilities to take action, educate ourselves further and make our voices heard.

How you can help

This is not an exhaustive list of everything you can do to help the anti-racism movement, but we’ve collated a list of resources to get you started.

Demand justice for Breonna Taylor

  • Sign the petition: Sign the change.org petition, which calls for charges to be filed immediately against the officers involved, here.
  • Donate to Breonna Taylor’s family: There has been a GoFundMe set up to benefit Taylor’s family, who are “missing out on some work (and sleep) in this fight for justice.” 

Other campaigns to support

Not sure how? Here’s what to do:

  • Donate to the official George Floyd memorial fund, a GoFundMe page set up by Floyd’s brother.
  • Donate to Jacob Blake’s GoFundMe page, which was set up by his family.
  • Sign Color of Change’s petition to call for the firing and arrest of the officer who shot Jacob Blake.
  • Support the Black Visions Collective, an organisation working specifically on racial justice within the state of Minnesota.

Support anti-racism charities

For more information on charities and initiatives, you can support here in the UK, you can check out our guide. If you’ve got the means, why not consider setting up a regular payment?

Educate yourself

Developing a greater understanding of the systemic racism and white privilege that exists in our society puts us in a better position to challenge, understand or dismantle it. Some examples of books to read include: 

  • Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me
  • Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
  • Crystal M. Fleming’s How To Be Less Stupid About Race
  • Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want To Talk About Race
  • Claudia Rankine’s Citizen
  • Candice Brathwaite’s I Am Not Your Baby Mother

If you’ve got a Netflix subscription, you can also check out our guide to 30 things to watch on Netflix that put Black people front and centre.

Finally, you can check out some articles to learn more about the experiences of Black people in the UK:

  • “Why race filters create a safer experience for Black women on dating apps”
  • “I was sick of being the only Black woman in the room, so I created my own”
  • What does BAME mean? Why we need to stop treating Black, Asian and minority ethnicities as one
  • “Why I’m rejecting the ‘strong black woman’ narrative”
  • “Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were denied dignity in death. Don’t tell me the UK doesn’t need Black Lives Matter”

Images: Getty

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