Two years ago, Bianca Austin awoke to news that changed her life: Her niece Breonna Taylor had been shot inside her apartment.
“At this point we can’t focus on grieving because we still don’t know what happened that day,” Austin said.
Others said they had come out to support the racial justice efforts in the city. Chris Harmer, a retired environmental consultant and education activist, said he was “horrified” by Taylor’s death.
Harmer, who is White, said that he visited the square every couple of weeks during the 2020 protests, and planned to return this year on the anniversary of Taylor’s death. As a Quaker, he says it’s important to him to be involved in this advocacy.
“I’ll still be doing the work next year, and the year after that,” Harmer said.
Austin and local group Justice for Louisville helped plan the memorial, which included speeches by Keturah Herron, an activist and state representative who led an effort to ban no-knock warrants in Louisville and statewide, and a performance by local youth rappers Mighty Shades of Ebony.
Jacob Blake Sr. also spoke at the memorial event for Taylor. Blake’s son Jacob Blake, a 29-year old Black man, was shot and paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wis., in 2020.
Blake said he and Austin have grown close in the past two years since creating Families United, an advocacy group that supports Black victims of police brutality. “When me and B are together, we finish each other’s sentences,” Blake said. “We’re like brother and sister.”
Blake said he and Austin call themselves “the firemen,” because they travel across the country to support families of people killed or injured by police.
“We go wherever the families need us.” Blake said. “It’s a bond that only we can understand.”
That bond is so strong, Blake said, that he thinks of Austin and the rest of Taylor’s family as his own.
“Breonna Taylor has become a niece to me. Her family adopted me as uncle Jake,” Blake told the crowd at the square. “B is in our midst right now. Her spirit is here right now.”
Austin agreed. She said that she feels Taylor sends her signals all the time — usually in the form of the numbers 313, the date of Taylor’s death.
“I was pumping gas the other day and the total was $31.13. The last two hotels I stayed in, they put me in room 313. I couldn’t believe it,” Austin said.
Around 3:10 p.m. today, Austin and the crowd at the square gathered around a portrait of Taylor in her EMT uniform, holding blue, white, and silver balloons — Taylor’s favorite colors. At 3:13 p.m., the crowd let them go, watching them float up and above Louisville’s City Hall building.
“Breonna did not deserve to die the way she did,” Austin told the crowd. “All she wanted was to be around her family. You’re her family now and we appreciate you being here.”