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Protesters find sanctuary, avoid arrest after curfew at First Unitarian Church of Louisville

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 9:43 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Several protesters in Louisville found refuge Thursday at First Unitarian Church.

Protests in Louisville continued Wednesday with renewed energy following a major decision in the Breonna Taylor case. Those who spent 118 days demanding justice for Taylor began to express their frustrations after only one officer involved in her death was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment.

On Thursday, protesters again marched through downtown Louisville. As Mayor Greg Fischer’s 9 p.m. curfew approached, a number of protesters converged on the First Unitarian Church of Louisville.

Several protesters in Louisville found refuge Thursday at First Unitarian Church.
Several protesters in Louisville found refuge Thursday at First Unitarian Church.(WAVE 3 News)

Unitarian minister Rev. Dawn Cooley said clergy planned for protesters to come to the church for food, water, medical treatment and a safe place. Cooley currently serves at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church Justice Center.

“This is what churches are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be sanctuaries and havens for people who are in need. So this is absolutely what all the churches should be doing,” she said.

Police surrounded the church on all sides from 9 p.m. until just before 11 p.m. Later, police made it clear that protesters could leave church property without arrest and collect their belongings from Jefferson Square Park.

“The mayor did say that churches should open up and provide a place for people to lament and provide solace, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Cooley said.

When Mayor Greg Fischer announced a 9 p.m. curfew Wednesday, he included an exception for people going to church, work or seeking medical treatment.

In a statement, police explained their response to protesters at the church:

"Contrary to rumors on social media, the LMPD, at no time, was waiting for “a decision from legal about whether or not they can storm the property.” No arrests were made for being on church property. No National Guard was deployed to address these issues. Officers remained at 4th and York in order to secure the area so maintenance could address the library windows that were broken and an arson investigation begun. Once that was complete, police left the area and protestors were given directions on how to leave the church and head home and were able to walk back to their vehicles."

At least 24 people were arrested throughout the evening for charges including unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and riot.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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