LIVE UPDATES: Armed militias converge in downtown as Louisville protests continue

by 24USATVJuly 25, 2020, 8:40 p.m. 50
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Downtown Louisville is again the site of protestsSaturday as armed militia groups and Black Lives Matter protesters face one another on opposite sides of barricades set up by Louisville Metro Police Department officers.

The NFAC, a Black militia that stands for "Not F**king Around Coalition," announced earlier in the week the group would be coming to Louisville to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police.

In response to the NFAC's announcement, the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group, announced later in the week that it will have "boots on the ground" in Louisville.

Both fulfilled their promise as a few hundred people are toting guns and facing off at Jefferson Street on Saturday morning, where LMPD is in full riot gear.

As of 1:30 p.m., about 200 protesters gathered downtown between Jefferson Square and 5th Street, according to Courier Journal reporters on the scene.

Reporter Chris Kenning estimated more than 50 people were gathered with the Three Percenters militia, many from out of town and outlying counties.

A few blocks away at Baxter Park, Courier Journal reporter Phillip Bailey estimated 200 NFAC members were gathered. They have yet to march to downtown Louisville.

More:Three Percenters plan 'boots on the ground' in Louisville to counter Black militia

Louisville police already announced several measures, including road closures and heightened presence, to try to keep everyone safe.

Follow along for updates throughout the day.

NFAC has marched away and police are starting to leave the downtown area at 6th and Jefferson. There are still some protesters hanging out around Jefferson Square park and on Jefferson Street.

It appeared that the Three Percenters group were also leaving.

Around 3:30 p.m., NAFC leader John Fitzgerald "Jay" Johnson addressed a crowd of a few thousand people outside the Hall of Justice in downtown Louisville.

Jay said he spoke with the Attorney General Daniel Cameron about the Breonna Taylor investigation, and was told it will to take another four months to finish the Breonna Taylor investigation, which Jay called "re-building the crime scene."

Jay said he told Cameron: "You ain't got four months. I'm going to need you to treat this like you treated the people on your front yard. Lock them motherf****ers up."

The leader paused to point out someone standing on a rooftop downtown, told the NAFC militia to stand down and said "If you don't get down off the roof, you will be shot."

Cops often patrol the rooftops above the area.

Jay says NAFC plan to stay in Louisville and "build community policing" strategies. He says they plan to work with gangs and others to build public safety.

"If y'all don't believe, we've done more in 2 months than some have in their entire existence," he said.

Jay said the police lied about the warrant and what happened, and praised Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker for defending her at their apartment.

Jay ended the speech by saying that NAFC is giving Cameron and the Breonna Taylor investigation four weeks from today to "tell the truth."

Leading the group in a call and response, he said: "If we don't get the whole, motherf****ing truth, we are going to burn this mother****er down."

The two militia groups are now within sight of one another at 6th and Jefferson. Three Percenters lined up in anticipation of the Black militia marching toward them. The two groups are separated by a police barricade, where LMPD officers are in full riot gear.

Hundreds are gathered outside the Hall of Justice.

The crowd on the Three Percenters side of the street is significantly smaller.

A statement from LMPD Police Chief Robert Schroeder confirmed that shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, three people were struck by gunfire when someone’s gun discharged while participating in the NFAC demonstration at Baxter Park.

All three victims went to the University of Louisville Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

"All involved are members of the NFAC and there are no outstanding suspects," Schroeder said. "This is a tragic situation that could have been much worse. I encourage anyone choosing to exercise their Second Amendment rights to do so responsibly."

A sea of Black people in a militia dressed in black fatigues march on downtown.

Members of the NFAC lined up in a military-style formation as the group marched east on Jefferson, and reached the Hall of Justice.

Cries of "Black Lives Matter" were heard through downtown.

The NFAC group is getting into formation to leave Baxter Park and walk through downtown Louisville to where Three Percenters and Black Lives Matters protesters are already gathered near Fifth and Jefferson streets.

2 p.m. 'You got no business being here'

Nick Alsager, who held an assault rifle with others from the Three Percenters militia in downtown Louisville, said the NAFC leader had talked to Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron about the Breonna Taylor shooting investigation and argued the group had no reason to march Saturday.

“You got no business being here. It ain’t your state,” he said.

About 200 people are still gathered in Baxter Park and NFAC said they still plan to demonstrate and march five blocks in downtown despite the accidental shot fired, which sent two people to the hospital.

Courier Journal has reached out to LMPD for comment on the incident.

Tension grew on the corner of Fifth and Jefferson Streets as Black Lives Matter protesters debated and argued with militia members. Police kept the road barricaded.

Many of the militia members were heavily armed, with assault rifles, handguns and ammo clips. In interviews, many said they had showed up to prevent violence and back police, denying that it was because the NAFC was a Black militia.

At least two people have been arrested downtown since the morning.

It appeared at least two people were injured around 1 p.m. at the NFAC gathering. Preliminary reports are that one accidental weapon shot went off. Two individuals were wheeled off on stretchers by medics, another had her arm treated and another appeared to have his hand treated, per the Courier Journal's live stream.

WATCH:NFAC prepares to March from Baxter Park to Jefferson Square Park amid Breonna Taylor protests

12:18 p.m. - Another arrest was made in downtown Louisville.

At least 40 police officers arrived in riot gear at 11 a.m. They formed a barricade between the Black Lives Matter protesters and the Three Percenters.

One Black Lives Matter protester approached the police officers and got very close to passing through their barricade. The woman was arrested.

Tara Brandau, a member of the Three Percenters, said she heard a Klu Klux Klan group was planning to come to the protest. Brandau said the Three Percenters did not condone the KKK group's plan.

"We don't want no KKK," Brandau said.

Police plan to set up another barricade if KKK members do arrive.

The Not F**king Around Coalition has assembled at Baxter Park before marching to Jefferson Square Park. At least 100 NFAC members are lined up in the park.

Louisville activist LeBron Seay, 52, says he absolutely supports NFAC being in the city, and that it shows Black residents have more options besides sit-ins and posters.

Resident Roger Dhahabu, 64, says he fully supports NFAC being in Louisville, and that he's proud to see Black men and women exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.

"I'm not afraid to die for the right cause," he says.

Activist Mechelle Bumpous, 49, says seeing a disciplined and armed Black militia should show Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD the community is tired.

"We want answers and we want the system changed," she says. "All of that."

Three Percenter members gathered downtown near Metro Hall. About half an hour later, Breonna Taylor protesters arrived on the scene.

Shortly after 10 a.m., a man in a shirt that said "Support Black women" was arrested on Jefferson Street.

Around 10:40 a.m. Black Lives Matter protesters lead Three Percenters members in a chant of "Say her name: Breonna Taylor."

Also:Black militia plans armed march in Louisville to demand justice for Breonna Taylor

In anticipation of the NFAC, Three Percenters and other groups demonstrating later in the day, Louisville Metro Police have closed off several roads downtown to vehicular traffic, starting at 8 a.m.
• Liberty Street between Fifth and Seventh streets
• Fifth Street between Market Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard

Additionally, parking will not be allowed at any parking meters on the streets surrounding Jefferson Square Park. Police will have a heightened presence at the park throughout the day.

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