South Main Street erupted with the noise of two contrasting voices Saturday afternoon. Some called for justice for Breonna Taylor raising their fists and snapping as slurred giggles slipped from the mouths of students celebrating the Gators' win in beer-stained orange-and-blue shirts.
About 250 students and residents wearing Black Lives Matter shirts and face masks rallied against a Louisville, Kentucky, jury’s Wednesday decision in Taylor’s case, a Black woman who was shot by police in her home March 13.
They gathered Saturday evening at Bo Diddley Plaza, located at 111 E. University Ave. and marched to the Alachua County Courthouse at 220 S. Main St., for about two hours.
None of the police officers involved in Taylor’s death were charged. Brett Hankison, a now-fired Louisville police officer, was indicted Wednesday on first-degree wanton endangerment, or behavior that can cause death or severe injury to another person. Hankison was charged because the shots he fired also went through a neighboring apartment’s walls.
Organizers from the GoDDsville Dream Defenders, the local chapter of an organization founded after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and supporters from the crowd went up to speak.
“This is not the world I wanna live in,” a speaker said.
Alexandra St Tellien, a protest organizer, stood in the center of the crowd.
Every time St Tellien opened Instagram, the 22-year-old UF psychology and linguistics senior said she saw pictures and videos of Black people who died at the hands of police. Since June, she has helped organize protests.
“I am tired of being brutalized,” she said to the crowd. “I am a Black woman, and I am tired.”
To St Tellien, the Breonna Taylor decision was a slap in the face.
“Black women — we’re used, we’re used and used until we have like nothing left,” she said. “And then we still don’t get the justice that we need.”
People who disagree with protesters should look at their biases, she said. No one is less human than anyone else.
“If people really believe that like Black Lives Matter and Breonna Taylor’s life matter, then you must abolish the system that killed her, which is the police. And it’s not a radical idea,” she said. “We’re asking for bare minimum, and that’s safety.”
Gainesville City Commissioner David Arreola said it was his right to demand justice at the protest.
Qualified immunity, where officers are absolved of their actions, needs to be abolished because there are too many instances in which police use deadly force on Black and brown men and women, Arreola said.
“GPD is a department that is lightyears ahead of many other police departments,” he said. “But we will not tolerate them lowering that standard. We will not tolerate them abusing people.”
While speakers discussed rallying for Black lives, Meg Sullivan’s 6-year-old son asked her what protesters’ signs said. She told him the signs said “Black Lives Matter” and explained what happened to Taylor.
Sullivan, a 32-year-old Gainesville resident, said her son told her people who kill should go to jail. So the family decided to protest – they all said the police officers who killed Taylor should face the consequences.
“They rarely go to jail in this type of situation when Black and brown bodies are involved,” she said.
As a white woman, Sullivan said protesting and exposing her two children to injustice is important to unlearn bias, racism and white supremacy.
Kiara Laurent speaks to the crowd at Bo Diddley Plaza in Gainesville before protesters march to the Alachua County Courthouse on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Laurent is a member of the Dream Defenders, a black-led organization of young people who planned this event. (Lauren Witte/Alligator Staff)
Kendall Brandt (middle), 20, a third-year UF journalism student and candidate for Change Party senator in district A, marches with the crowd to the Alachua County Courthouse in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Lauren Witte/Alligator Staff)
Signs stating “Color is not a crime,” “For Breonna,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Protect black women” are seen at the protest starting at Bo Didley Plaza in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Asta Hemenway/Alligator Staff)
Stephen Marsh, an engineer, and his 13-year-old daughter speak in front of the crowd at the Alachua County Courthouse in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Lauren Witte/Alligator Staff)
Kiah Kramer (left), 20, and Kendall Brandt (right), 20, snap during a speech in front of the Alachua County Courthouse steps in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. They are both UF juniors and candidates for Change Party senators in District A. (Lauren Witte/Alligator Staff)
A “GNV heart’s Breonna Taylor,” sign is seen at the protest for Breonna Taylor in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Grethel Aguila/Alligator Staff)
Janelle Stewart, a peer specialist for Gainesville Peer Respite, marches back to Bo Diddley Plaza with other protesters in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (Lauren Witte/Alligator Staff)
Asta Hemenway is a third-year senior majoring in Journalism. Born in Tallahassee, she grew up Senegalese American. When she’s not writing or doing school, she loves watching Netflix and Tiktok in her spare time.