The Louisville Metro Police Department announced Tuesday it will begin setting up barricades in the downtown area and restricting some vehicle traffic in anticipation of an announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron regarding the investigation into Breonna Taylor's death.
This comes after the department declared a state of emergency Monday and a federal courthouse and adjacent offices in Louisville were boarded up Sunday ahead of the decision. Cameron has repeatedly refused to give a timeline for his investigation, but he will eventually present his findings before a grand jury, who will decide whether to criminally indict the three officers involved in Taylor’s death.
“Due to increased attention and activity in anticipation of an announcement from Attorney General Daniel Cameron regarding the Breonna Taylor case, a decision was made to accelerate plans to physically restrict access to the downtown area,” the LMPD said in a statement tweeted early Tuesday. “While we do not know when the Attorney General will make his announcement, LMPD is taking the following actions now to ensure the area is as safe as possible for those coming downtown to express their First Amendment Rights, as well as those who live and work in the area.”
The department said it will place vehicle barricades around the perimeter of the downtown area as well as Jefferson Square Park, which has become a regular meeting spot for demonstrators in front of the federal courthouse, in order to “ensure pedestrian safety.”
Barriers will also be in place at intersections, and police will further restrict vehicle access in the blocks immediately surrounding the park as well as in the downtown area between Market Street south to Broadway and from Second Street to Roy Wilkins Avenue. Police will work with people who live, work, and do business in the area to allow necessary access.
The department also tweeted a list of places officers will be stationed in order to request access to blocked-off roads for legitimate business. The tweet also included a map showing an emergency route and where concrete Jersey barriers will be placed.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, LMPD Interim Chief Rob Schroeder explained that there is no fencing around Jefferson Square Park and people wanting to come to protest can drive downtown, park outside the barricaded zone, and then walk through a designated access point to the park on foot to express their First Amendment rights.
“This is by no means intended to be a lockdown of the downtown area,” Schroeder said, adding that people can freely access the area and officers stationed at the access points are not checking the IDs of people entering or exiting downtown at this time. The interim chief also said he did not have any information on when Cameron expected to make his announcement, but police were taking preliminary precautions amid rumors swirling that it would come this week.
Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted Tuesday that he also did not know when Cameron would make the announcement or what it would entail.
"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 said.
Schroeder declared a “state of emergency for the Louisville Metro Police Department” in a memo sent to all personnel Monday.
"To ensure we have the appropriate level of staffing to provide for public safety services and our policing functions, effective immediately the LMPD will operate under the emergency staffing and reporting guidelines as outlined in the Standard Operating Procedures, Emergency Response Plan, and collective bargaining agreements until further notice," Schroeder wrote, according to a copy of the internal memo obtained by WDRB.
Effective immediately Monday, the department also canceled all off days and all vacation requests not already approved and submitted until further notice, according to a separate memo issued by LMPD Sgt. Lamont Washington to all personnel.
Four federal buildings in downtown Louisville -- the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse & Customhouse, the Romano L. Mazzoli Federal Building, the U.S. Attorney's Office building and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building – have been classified as “high-risk” targets by Homeland Security ahead of the potential civil unrest linked to the decision on Taylor’s case, according to Tom Moore, the facilities manager of the General Services Administration, which manages the buildings.
The courthouse will be closed to the general public from Sept. 21 -25, and in-court appearances during this time will be temporarily converted to virtual proceedings, Chief Judge Greg N. Stivers of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky said in an order Friday. The ICE office in Louisville will also remain closed this week, according to the agency’s website.
Louisville has been gripped by large-scale and sometimes violent demonstrations this summer over the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed during an authorized police raid executed as part of a narcotics investigation. One officer, Brett Hankison, was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department on June 23. The other two officers involved -- Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove – had already been placed on administrative leave.