Communities across the nation are reacting to the indictment decisions in the Breonna Taylor case, including Binghamton.
At 7:00 p.m., Wednesday night, close to 100 community members and students came to the Peacemaker’s Stage in Downtown Binghamton to hold a candlelight vigil for Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed by police officers in Kentucky on March 13. Community members organized the event in response to the grand jury indictment earlier in the day, where one of the three officers involved in Taylor’s death was indicted. The indicted officer was not charged in connection to her death, but with three counts of wanton endangerment because his gunshots could have harmed three individuals living in the apartment next to Taylor’s. No one in the other apartment was harmed, but Taylor was shot six times and bled to death as a result.
Candles were placed all around the stage and distributed among the attendees. People were then invited up to the stage to speak. Many of the speakers expressed anger and grief over the grand jury decision. Shanel Boyce, ‘14, master’s of social work ‘18, explained how Wednesday’s event was different from previous demonstrations held in response to police brutality.
“This space was really about Black folks today,” Boyce said. “It was giving us a communal healing space. I think a lot of times we rush to the streets and we’re enraged, but today, everybody was feeling a lot of grief and we needed a place to collectively deal with that as a community.”
A police vehicle arrived nearby shortly after the start of the vigil. The crowd then approached the car chanting, “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe” and “Whose streets? Our streets,” leading the vehicle to drive off. The group then returned to the stage to continue with the open mic.
Roderick Douglass, of Binghamton, got up to speak after an individual expressed a loss of hope following the grand jury decision. He urged those in attendance to not give up and referenced the crowd driving the police away as an example of how working as a community can cause change.
“Take that risk,” Douglass said. “Have that faith. And please keep that hope because we’re going to win — we know we’re going to win.”
Once the open mic had finished, the crowd moved out on to Court Street, right before the bridge on the downtown side, and blocked traffic. They started chanting Taylor’s name and waving rainbow-colored flags and flags reading, “Black Lives Matter.” This was followed by a moment of silence for Taylor.
During this, the Binghamton Police Department showed up to direct traffic. In an attempt to demonstrate without police support, the group marched to and blocked the intersection of Court Street and Hawley Street. They stayed there for several minutes, continuing their chants, then walked back to the Peacemaker’s Stage.
After the event, Boyce shared her thoughts on the indictment and what she believes needs to happen next.
“I’m not surprised, which is sad,” Boyce said. “I’m not surprised, but I’m enraged because there’s no way that they should have came back with that bogus indictment — that’s what that was. And it had nothing to do with the fact that Breonna Taylor was murdered, and again we keep trying to show people that the police are all about protecting property and as long as they’re doing that job — protecting property — there’s never any repercussions for them taking Black lives — and that’s how I feel about it. We’re going to force that, that’s why we keep saying we got to defund the police, but go further than that. I feel like that’s the white-washed version of it. We say ‘abolish the police’ — the police got to go.”