UPDATE: Sunday’s protest has been canceled, according to Harford Marathon, a self-described activist group.
Alyssa Webster was not surprised when she heard the news Wednesday that none of the three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Louisville, Kentucky, resident Breonna Taylor in March would be charged with murder, but it was “still a huge disappointment” for her.
“I’m kind of used to being let down and disappointed by society’s actions,” said Webster, 22, who grew up in Bel Air and now resides in Cecil County.
She is still motivated, despite her disappointment, to fight for social justice and “continue to be that change that we all seek.”
Webster is an administrator with the community activist group Harford Marathon, and has participated in protests against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter in the local area since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May.
The deaths of Floyd, Taylor and other Black people at the hands of police have galvanized protests throughout the U.S., including a slew of rallies in Harford County in late May and early June. Harford Marathon has organized two rallies supporting Black Lives Matter in Aberdeen this month, and the group is hosting another protest Sunday in memory of Taylor.
That event, billed as the “Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest for Breonna Taylor,” is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday in the plaza in front of the Harford County Courthouse, across from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office headquarters in downtown Bel Air.
K!D Casper, a Harford County-based Christian rapper and podcaster who founded Harford Marathon, stressed that Sunday’s event is meant to be peaceful, the same as prior rallies Sept. 5 and last Saturday, Sept. 19, both of which happened in Festival Park in Aberdeen.
“Peace, that’s what needs to happen right now ... I’m not stooping down to riots or hate speech or anything like that,” he said Thursday, noting that his group’s mission statement is “Lead with love.”
Casper was planning to host a rally in memory of Taylor in early October, marking 200 days since she died, but he decided to move it up to this weekend after hearing the news Wednesday about the lack of indictments.
“I feel like if we don’t do something this weekend the momentum will die down,” he said of local protest movements supporting Black Lives Matter. Casper has been participating in rallies in Cecil and Harford counties, as well as Baltimore County and Baltimore City, even Prince George’s County, since late May.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was asleep in her apartment with her boyfriend early on the morning of March 13 when they heard pounding at the front door. Police, who were serving a search warrant as part of a drug investigation, were confronted by Taylor’s armed boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who fired a shot at them, injuring one officer.
Police shot back, firing multiple times, and hit Taylor who died of her wounds. Walker claimed he thought the officers were intruders and said they did not identify themselves as police, although police officials have said the officers did.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office handled the investigation, and Cameron announced Wednesday that a grand jury had indicted one of the three officers, former detective Brett Hankison, for first-degree wanton endangerment. He was outside Taylor’s apartment complex and fired 10 shots at the building, sending some rounds through a neighboring dwelling.
Two other officers involved in the raid and shooting, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, did not face any indictments — Mattingly was the officer who was injured.
Protests erupted in Louisville Wednesday night; two officers were shot and multiple people were arrested during the unrest.
Webster, of Harford Marathon, said she is used to disappointment in high-profile cases when people — either police officers or armed citizens — kill unarmed Black people and do not face justice, going back to the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, in 2013, when Webster was a middle school student.
“Pretty much since I’ve been able to understand what’s going on, I’ve been used to these letdowns,” she said.
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Webster said she and her fellow activists are trying to prevent incidents of violence before they start.
“We need to spread the word about what’s going on, open people’s eyes and try to get them to understand the impact of police violence,” she said.
About 20 people attended Harford Marathon’s rally in Aberdeen last weekend. Casper said the gathering was “small, it was intimate,” and it became more like a forum.
“It was simply people seeking to understand each other, and I think that was beautiful,” he said.
Webster said she has been able to share with attendees her perspective on racism and police brutality.
“It’s nice to give people insight ... try to get people to understand,” she said.
People can visit the Harford Marathon pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more information or to follow a livestream Sunday’s protest.