Roses painted with gold sparkles were handed to Black women at a rally in downtown Chicago Saturday to honor Breonna Taylor and protest the decision not to bring murder charges against the officers who were responsible for her death.
“This rose was Breonna Taylor because she, much like this rose, had to grow in an environment that wasn’t necessarily made for her, but nonetheless, she grew,” said local organizer Jamila Trimuel. “26 years of growth only to be struck down and shut up in the comfort of her own home.”
Demonstrators organized in response to a decision by a Kentucky grand jury to not indict three Louisville cops in the shooting death of Taylor. Taylor is a Black woman who was shot to death in her own apartment in a botched police raid in March. One ex-officer was charged with wanton endangerment for shots he fired into a neighbor’s apartment, but no charges were brought for Taylor’s death.
Many in attendance at Daley Plaza in Chicago Saturday said they see similarities across the country and in Chicago in how Black women are regarded in the criminal justice system. And protesting the aftermath of Taylor’s death helped channel at least a portion of their anger, some said.
Letonia Robinson gathered her mother and several relatives to protest, saying despite strong Black women leadership in Illinois, she doesn’t feel Black women are treated fairly in Chicago’s criminal justice system.
“I have mixed feelings being a Black woman in Chicago. I feel like we’re respected but only when we hold a power,” Robinson said.
“We have a Black mayor, we have a Black Cook County board president, we have a Black state’s attorney, we have Dorothy Brown [a Black Clerk of the Circuit Court],” she said. “In Chicago we have Black women who hold all these powers, but it’s like when you look at regular [Black women], it’s like: we’re struggling.”
Robinson, who is in a custody battle for her son, said she’s been degraded and patronized by the Chicago judge handling her case, which inspired her to come out in support for Taylor.
“Everyone talks about the police, but what about the judge who signed off on that order — what about what happens in the court? It’s deeper than just the police… you have to go into the court and see what these judges are doing,” she said.
Many said they turned out today because of their support for the local organization, My Block, My Hood, My City, which organized the protest, and for Black women in general. Several white protesters declined to speak, saying they’d rather WBEZ elevate Black voices.
“I would prefer, as a white man, not to give a response,” Eric Saboie, of Logan Square, said. “I think in this moment, it’s crucial to be listening to Black women. . .part of why I’m here is because of the importance of allyship.”
Some expressed disappointment that more people didn’t show up, including Monette Mclin, a Black woman from Rogers Park who said she isn’t sure how much impact she’d have by showing up.
But she said she came because she thought it would help improve her mood and protect her mental health after a week of dismay following the decision in Taylor’s case.
“Coming here, I feel renewed. Like I did something with myself besides just wake up and spend another day in Chicago,” Mclin said.
“People who didn’t come here today just missed having their spirit opened up. I don’t enjoy watching the news anymore. I unmute it when I see the weather report, but there’s so much misery. I need to flush it out of my system at times.”
Mariah Woelfel is a general assignment reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter @MariahWoelfel.