LOUISVILLE, K.Y.: Some 150 protesters peacefully demonstrated outside the Louisville Metro Police Department on Monday in response to a threatening letter released by the River City Fraternal Order of the Police (FOP) Lodge 614 late last week. The letter came in the wake of the hate-fueled killing of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historically Black church in Charleston, S.C., and just days after a Louisville police officer fatally shot 21-year-old Deng Manyoun.
In the letter, FOP President David Mutchler targeted community members who have united against recent acts of police brutality and racial violence, calling them “sensationalists” and “race-baiters” and threatening to use force against those who demonstrate. He further implored community members opposed to the demonstrators’ message to join him to “rise up” against them – aimed at inciting a civilian clash. In response, protestors organized at the headquarters of the Metro Police Department to deliver a list of demands seeking greater transparency in policing activities and higher standards of accountability for government actors charged with ensuring the safety and equity of Louisville’s communities of colour.
“We organized today as educators, parents, social workers, community organizers and concerned community members advocating for a fair and just Louisville,” said former Councilwoman Attica Scott. “We have both a constitutional right and responsibility to understand, and where appropriate, question the policies employed by our local police. Public servants should engage respectfully with the communities they serve – rather than propagating fear through letters like the one penned by FOP President David Mutchler, or by ignoring our voices and the concerns we raise.”
In anticipation of today’s demonstration, the Louisville Metro Police Department completely shut down their headquarters. While both Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Chief of Police Steve Conrad have denounced or distanced themselves from aggressive language shared in the letter from Louisville FOP President Mutchler, neither came to meet with the community members who peacefully assembled.
“It is unconscionable for the Metro Police Department to opt to close down operations at their headquarters, rather than engage with community members who have peacefully united to demonstrate their First Amendment rights,” said Ashley Belcher, a local activist. “This cowardice does not lead to positive change for the betterment of our entire community – it only hinders our capability to make progress on issues of policing and racial justice.”
“We organized to share a set of demands that we think will foster solutions,” said Chanelle Helm, a local organizer and community member. “It is crucial now that those who are charged to protect and serve start to engage the people they are meant to work for with respect and compassion, rather than threats or neglect.”
Activists in Louisville have recently called for reform in Louisville Metro Police Department interactions with its citizens of colour, building on the momentum of the #BlackLivesMatter movement spawned after months of high-profile police killings of people of colour across the nation. While protests in Louisville have been resoundingly peaceful, public officials have yet to acknowledge the list of demands presented by organizers. Among these demands include:
- Complete overhaul of use of force policies to be more aligned with Amnesty International, Department of Justice and United Nations Guidelines
- When an officer-involved shooting occurs:
- That officer and all responding officers need to give recorded statement within 24 to 48 hours and complete an incident report immediately after involved shooting
- Names of officers involved need to be released within 24 to 48 hours
- Police spend more time engaging the community outside of their cars
- After all uses of deadly force cases, responding officers must be immediately screened by third-party and tested for drug and alcohol and complete a fit-for-duty physical
- Assign special prosecutor for all deadly force cases
- Speed up implementation of body cameras in District 1 & District 2
- Dismantle VIPER squad
- End over-policing in communities of colour
- Create a database for all police-involved shootings
- Restore and re-seat the Civilian Review Board, and provide it with subpoena authority.
- Fire Mutchler by 5 p.m. Friday, June 26 (President of FOP and LMPD Sergeant)
- Top 5 ranking officers to publicly denounce letter