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Louisville Mayor Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Breonna Taylor Decision

Many of the streets in downtown Louisville are blocked like this one at Seventh and Broadway Tuesday, September 22, 2020, in advance of Attorney General Daniel Cameron's report on the shooting of Breonna Taylor. (Michael Clevenger/The Courier Journal)
By Lucas Aulbach
Louisville Courier Journal

Louisville officials say they don’t know when a decision from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is coming in regards to the Breonna Taylor case. But the city is restricting downtown access and taking other actions Tuesday morning, including a state of emergency order from Mayor Greg Fischer.

Here’s what’s happening Tuesday in Louisville:

Mayor Greg Fischer calls state of emergency, other executive order

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer stressed in a Tuesday afternoon release that he doesn’t know when an announcement on the Breonna Taylor case is coming but issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in anticipation of a decision.

The order was put in place “due to the potential for civil unrest, which allows him to exercise any of his emergency powers, including those to hire or contract for services, and implementing curfews and other restrictions,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

A second executive order restricts access to five downtown parking garages and bans on-street parking. Louisville Metro Police officials put up barricades in a more than 25-block downtown perimeter overnight to keep cars from being able to enter the area.

Powers given to a mayor in a state of emergency, according to state statute 39A.100, include: permission to exclude all nonessential personnel from the scene of an emergency, to declare curfews and to request assistance from other U.S. agencies through the governor.

“Again, we do not know when the announcement will come, but we must prepare for it. Our goal is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights after the announcement,” Fischer’s statement, sent at 12:47 p.m., said. “At the same time, we are preparing for any eventuality to keep everyone safe.”

Cop who fired gun in Breonna Taylor shooting encourages officers

Jonathan Mattingly, one of the three officers who fired their weapon on the night Breonna Taylor was killed, sent an email to more than 1,000 LMPD colleagues early Saturday morning encouraging fellow officers ahead of any potential conflicts and ripping Mayor Greg Fischer, former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, the FBI, protesters, and several other groups.

“Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night,” Mattingly wrote. “It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and the criminals are canonized.”

Click here to check out the full story from Courier Journal reporter Jonathan Bullington.

LMPD: Road closures ‘necessary’ amid eerie downtown scene

Louisville Metro Police Department interim Chief Robert Schroeder told media members Tuesday morning that he understood closing several downtown streets frustrated many in the community, and he apologized for the inconvenience. But he defended the move as necessary as Louisville waits for an announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

Schroeder, speaking downtown at 9:45 a.m., emphasized that the department still doesn’t know when the announcement from Cameron is coming and said he hopes these moves are looked back on a week from now as an overreaction. He also apologized to those who viewed LMPD’s moves as putting a lockdown in place and said that is not the department’s intent.

“We just ask that people bear with us as we go through these unprecedented time,” Schroeder said. “… We felt these steps were necessary to help protect the public.”

Foot traffic is not impacted by the street shutdowns, Schroeder clarified, and he added that the use of tear gas during any potential unrest would have to be approved by him, unless a serious situation such as gunfire calls for immediate action.

The plan to erect barricades ahead of a decision in the Taylor shooting was made long ago by police and the Mayor’s Office but not announced earlier to avoid giving away tactics, LMPD spokesman Lamont Washington said. The city started erecting barriers around midnight and arout 3:30 a.m., when a public notice went out, he said.

So far, police have not received any viable threats of violence, he said. “We are aware of all the social media rumors. But, nothing viable at this point.”

Courier Journal columnist Joe Gerth is among those currently in downtown Louisville. He compared the scene to the classic Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” where Burgess Meredith plays the last man on Earth — there is no traffic on streets that would normally be bustling with rush hour traffic, he said, and he counted just three people outside City Hall. A small number of people have gathered at Jefferson Square Park, he added, but their numbers are not currently notable.

Many east-west streets are open for the most part, Gerth said, including Broadway and Chestnut Street, but most north-south streets such as Liberty Street and Jefferson Street are closed.

LMPD blocks access to downtown with barricades

Louisville Metro Police Department officials are taking steps to “physically restrict access to the downtown area” in anticipation of Cameron’s announcement.

In a 3:30 a.m. release, a department spokesman said in order to keep downtown safe for “those coming downtown to express their First Amendment Rights, as well as those who live and work in the area,” police are putting up vehicle barricades around Jefferson Square Park (the site of ongoing protests) and across the downtown perimeter and will restrict access even further near the park, with only pedestrian access allowed.

LMPD is also restricting vehicle access from Market Street to Broadway and from Second Street to Roy Wilkins Avenue, allowing in only those who live or work in the area. Parking and access to parking garages inside the perimeter will also be limited, according to the department, which asked anyone currently parked in the area to move their car as soon as possible.

How to get into downtown Louisville

Those with “legitimate business” downtown, according to LMPD spokesman Lamont Washington, can notify officers at one of the following intersections to enter: Second and Jefferson streets, Ninth and Chestnut streets, Eighth and Market streets, and Seventh Street and Broadway.

How to leave downtown Louisville

To exit downtown, Washington wrote, drivers should pass through one of the following corners: Ninth and Jefferson streets, Second and Chestnut streets, Third and Market streets, and Fourth Street and Broadway.

LMPD acknowledged the move is an “inconvenience” to those who live and work downtown and apologized for the changes. The statement stressed that LMPD officials do not know when Cameron’s decision will be announced, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer echoed that statement in a Tuesday morning Twitter post.

“Our goal with these steps is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights, & to prepare for any eventuality to keep everyone safe,” Fischer wrote.

Louisville events, news briefings canceled amid Tuesday tension

Several scheduled events around the city have been canceled Tuesday as downtown is essentially completely closed and Louisville waits for a Breonna Taylor announcement from Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

All Jefferson County circuit, family and district courts will be closed from 11:30 p.m. Tuesday until 7:30 a.m. Sunday, according to an order from Deputy Chief Judge Mitch Perry. Arraignments will continue, the order said.

A Jefferson County Public Schools spokesperson said a “handful of schools, that we’re aware of,” have told their teachers who have used their classrooms for remote instruction “to teach from home today.” And in Louisville’s Catholic school system, spokeswoman Cecelia Price confirmed Presentation Academy would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday and that students and families would be informed of the school’s plans for the rest of the week on Wednea

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, meanwhile, canceled a scheduled COVID-19 briefing that would have taken place with Sarah Moyer, the city’s chief health strategist.

The Muhammad Ali Center has also postponed a “Celebration of Life” that was set for the evening to honor the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week. The event had more than a dozen planned speakers, including University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi and Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds. It has not yet been rescheduled but will take place at a later date, the Ali Center release said.

LMPD declares state of emergency separate from city order

LMPD put in place a department state of emergency Monday, interim Chief Schroeder told media members Tuesday morning, but that order is separate from any declaration that would come from the city.

That department state of emergency was called in order to provide for adequate staffing for whatever situations arise, Schroeder said. All department off days and vacation requests were canceled Monday, LMPD had previously announced, to “ensure we have the appropriate level of staffing to provide for public safety services and our policing functions.”

Schroeder stressed that the department state of emergency order does not apply to all residents of the city, and that a state of emergency declaration that would apply to Louisville residents would come from Mayor Greg Fischer.

TARC tweaks bus routes Tuesday

Transit Authority of River City, Louisville’s public bus system, announced Tuesday morning that it would make some route changes ahead of an anticipated announcement in the Breonna Taylor case.

All stops along routes between Broadway and River Road and between First and Ninth streets will be closed “until further notice,” TARC said in a statement. Several of those blocks were closed off by Louisville police officials earlier in the morning as steps were taken to restrict downtown access.

TARC encouraged riders to keep up with the organization’s latest announcements through the news and events page on its website, ridetarc.org.