One year after George Floyd’s death, Louisville leaders and protesters reflect on changes made

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 7:55 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - When Emanuel Mitchell comes back to Jefferson Square Park, he gets emotional walking around a place he calls traumatic.

“The place is really heart-wrenching, like I drive past and my heart gets to racing a little bit,” Mitchell said.

For months, Jefferson Square Park was the center of protests in downtown Louisville, thousands of people calling for justice for Breonna Taylor.

Though Taylor was killed in March, the protests in her name started in May, after George Floyd was killed.

“It’s an eerie feeling down here,” Mitchell said. “It kind of almost feels like she died right in here in this place.”

Since Floyd’s death and protests began, several changes have been made in Louisville, culminating when Louisville Metro Council signed Breonna’s Law, banning no-knock warrants citywide. In that time, Metro Council also created a Civilian Review Board to hold officers accountable if they commit infractions.

Councilwoman Paula McCraney (D-7), who was influential in both projects, told WAVE 3 News she is proud of that progress.

“You have say to yourself, ‘these things may not have happened if those deaths had not occurred,’” McCraney said.

Louisville made another major change when Mayor Greg Fischer fired former Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad and hired Erika Shields.

In an interview with Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News, Shields acknowledged the department needed to make changes and promised to do so.

“What can I do, I can ensure that this department polices differently,” Shields said. “I can ensure that when people commit infractions they are held accountable immediately. And more than anything, it’s saying, you know what, how this was done, no matter your rationale, it was a failure and the department has to be committed to improving and doing things differently.”

Building trust between police and people is hard, but Pastor Timothy Findley Jr. believes it can be done if the officers present at Taylor’s home the night she was killed are, in some way, held criminally responsible for her death.

“You have to compare progress to the reason why you were protesting in the first place,” Findley said. “So even with incremental change and progress, the main thing that this city desperately wanted to see has not happened.”

Former LMPD Detective Brett Hankison is scheduled to stand trial in 2022. Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, accused of shooting blindly several times into neighboring apartments on the night Taylor was killed.

Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in Floyd’s death in April.

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