Louisville Community Leader On Protests: 'People Want To See Something Different'

Jun 4, 2020
Originally published on June 4, 2020 6:24 pm

Louisville, Ky., has been a center of protests after police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in March. A lot has happened in the city since then.

Last Thursday night, seven people were shot and injured during protests calling for justice for Taylor, George Floyd and other unarmed black Americans killed recently.

Sadiqa Reynolds — a former judge and president of the Louisville Urban League — was there.

On Monday, tensions ran high after law enforcement killed a beloved local barbecue chef named David McAtee.

When police prevented the removal of his body for more than 12 hours, Sadiqa Reynolds was there, too.

She has been playing something of a coach role as protests over police violence erupt across her city and the nation. On Tuesday, she was handing out masks and helping teenagers navigate interviews with the media.

"I'm proud of these young people for doing what they need to do, and I'm proud of those in my generation, the 40-somethings ... that are here to protect them," she told All Things Considered. "I'm just honored to be here, and to hear them sing, to watch their pain, to see them get a little tearful when they're trying to talk."

Reynolds talks with NPR about her city and the fight against police violence.


Interview Highlights

On how the protests are about more than just police violence

It is always about more than police violence. If you think about the jobs that we have been pushed down and relegated to, if you think about these folks that we are now celebrating as essential workers and how much money they actually make.

Look at the justice system and how disproportionately we are touched by the justice system, how over-policed our communities are. We know our police department can do better because we've seen them do better — they do better in white communities. They had a man shoot two people in broad daylight at Kroger and they walked him into jail. But in our community, we keep ending up in body bags.

These protests erupting across the country are changing the way the criminal justice system has to respond. So while I understand it is a terrible inconvenience for some people that there would be protesters out in the streets, but imagine day after day, over and over, suffering and watching people be hurt and die.

On the positive impact of the anti-police violence protests

The positive part of the protest, first of all, is the peacefulness of it because the vast majority of these protests have been very peaceful. Peace doesn't really make the news all the time, though, so people have to understand that. If you're not there, you might not know — you might not get the sense of that.

The other thing is that the crowds are very diverse. I mean, we have so many people you just think if these folks could be in charge of the world, the world would be different. I mean, there is a movement in our country. People want to see something different. So that is so encouraging for me.

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Sadiqa Reynolds is a former judge, head of the Louisville chapter of the Urban League. And when you visit Louisville, she is the person everyone says you've got to talk with.

(APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: At this protest over police violence, as college students speak and cheer, she's kind of playing the role of coach.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: They put me in charge of keeping their stuff.

SHAPIRO: She's handing out masks, making sure the teenagers get in front of the news media.

REYNOLDS: I'm proud of these young people for doing what they need to do, and I'm proud of those in my generation, the 40-somethings. And I see some men over there that are here to protect them. And I'm just honored to be here and to hear them sing, to watch their pain, to see them get a little tearful when they're trying to talk. You have to be proud of these young people.

SHAPIRO: Louisville has been a center of protests after police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in March. A lot has happened in this city since then. Last Thursday night, seven people were shot and injured during protests. Sadiqa Reynolds was there.

REYNOLDS: Here we have a young black man who was shot. He's at a protest protesting police. The ambulance didn't get there fast enough, so police load him into the police car to get him to the hospital. That's the complication of our existence.

SHAPIRO: And on Monday, tensions ran high after law enforcement killed a beloved barbecue chef named David McAtee. When they wouldn't remove his body for more than 12 hours, Sadiqa Reynolds was there, too. So I sat down with this community leader to talk about her city and the big picture of what black people in Louisville are going through right now, from COVID-19 to an economic collapse to this wave of demonstrations.

REYNOLDS: Well, I think everybody understands very clearly that our community is overrepresented as it relates to essential workers - so a community full of people who don't have the option of working at home, people who have to think about feeding their children all day long when schools close. What people need to understand about this pandemic is people who were suffering already just suffered more. And I don't think we can talk about enough the stress of being poor and then having to manage all of these other things in the process of it.

SHAPIRO: And so when we see people in Louisville and other cities marching against police violence, is it about more than police violence? Should we be considering all of these other factors, even if they aren't on the posters that people are carrying?

REYNOLDS: It is always about more than police violence. If you think about the jobs that we have been pushed down and relegated to, if you think about these folks that we are now celebrating as essential workers and how much money they actually make - look at the justice system and how disproportionately we are touched by the justice system, how overpoliced our communities are.

We know our police department can do better because we've seen them do better. They do better in white communities. They had a man shoot two people in broad daylight at Kroger, and they walked him into jail. But in our community, we keep ending up in body bags.

This - these protests erupting across the country are changing the way the criminal justice system has to respond. So while I understand it is an - a terrible inconvenience for some people that there would be protesters out in the streets - but imagine day after day, over and over, suffering and watching people be hurt and die.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like you think the protests are having a positive impact, like they're working.

REYNOLDS: Yeah, I...

SHAPIRO: You're not disillusioned. You're...

REYNOLDS: Although I am the president of the Louisville Urban League and that is my deepest desire to change people's hearts, actually, that's not my priority. My priority is to change behavior. My priority is to make sure we change policy so that we can change outcomes. I am absolutely in pursuit of trying to change the world in my own little way.

SHAPIRO: I want to hear more about where you see the positive impact of the protests because many people look at the coverage of the protests, and what they see is tear gas and rubber bullets and smashed windows.

REYNOLDS: The positive part of the protest, first of all, is the peacefulness of it, the - 'cause most - the vast majority of these protests have been very peaceful. Peace doesn't really make the news all the time, though, so people have to understand that if you're not there, you might not know. You might not get the sense of that.

The other thing is that the crowds are very diverse. All of - I mean, we have so many people. You just think if these folks could be in charge of the world, the world would be different. I mean, there is a movement in our country. People want to see something different, so that is so encouraging for me.

SHAPIRO: That's Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.