LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The most exciting two minutes in sports came 127 days late with thousands of protesters, a pandemic, and unrest across the nation.
The protests started across the country on May 26 in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Just two days later, Breonna Taylor’s name became a beacon of unity in those who say they’re fighting for change.
Multiple groups descended upon Kentucky for the 146th Kentucky Derby. Some there to protest in the name of Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans who died during police actions. Other groups were there to match those protesters saying they want to take their city back.
LMPD spread its resources along through the city’s most common protest spots, from 6th and Jefferson to Cox’s Park. Most of Saturday’s resources were compiled near Churchill Downs with the anticipated culmination of thousands of protesters and counter-protesters. LMPD said the day was peaceful as of 8:15. The large intersecting groups exchanged some heated words but violence was spared: LMPD didn’t have to intervene.
Two groups both had well-known leaders throughout the community. A group that calls themselves “Patriots” came to support police during the protests.
The “Patriots” were led by a group of a man known as the “Angry Viking.” Their protest started at Cox Park and marched down River Road to the front of the courthouse on Jefferson Street.
“The officers on LMPD are working hard, they’re understaffed, underfunded and they have no support,” said Richard Pearson, a former police officer. (about the violence) “They’re not allowed to do that right now, they’re being used as punching bags. To see a group come out like this, there’s no celebrities here, there are just people here from all walks of life who have come together to say we love our country, we love our constitution: Patriots”
Grandmaster Jay led his group the NFAC through Louisville in protest just like he did in July. His mission to his group was simple: stay hydrated, ignore people picking fights, and stay safe. Grandmaster Jay met with members of LMPD and the Kentucky National Guard at the end of their march from Cox Park to Churchill Downs.
The NFAC was followed by local protesters in the area along with people from out of state who came to see the self-proclaimed “armed black militia” in action.
“There’s black women out here armed, locked, cocked, and ready to rock,” said John Coleman who traveled from St. Louis to see the NFAC march. “I mean the man’s been there, but when you see the women come out here with the guns ready to go, that’s a powerful message”
NYC based protest group Until Freedom moved its operations to Louisville to march in Breonna Taylor’s name over a month ago. They were one of the factions represented on Saturday. During the Run for the Roses, their goal was to make as much noise as possible to let their voices be heard.
“Peaceful protests are being met with riot gear, batons, and things of that nature. We wanted people to see that very thing.” said one protester we spoke with. “We got our message out. We wanted to divert the eyes of the world onto a peaceful non-violent protest of 3,000+ people.”
Until Freedom left Churchill Downs after the race concluded. Much of their group and many other protesters ended their night in Jefferson Square Park with a BBQ, music, and a sense of accomplishment.
At least three people were arrested during the day. Those arrests came from a vandalized dump truck, a marijuana charge, and an illegal firearm charge.