‘All eyes on Derby’: Louisville organizers plan protests for Kentucky Derby weekend

This year, as Churchill Downs welcomes back racing fans, local organizers say there will be police protests
Churchill Downs Paddock Gate - generic
Churchill Downs Paddock Gate - generic(WAVE 3 News)
Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 8:58 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville activists plan to protest Kentucky Derby 147 and hold at least one other major rally the day before.

In September 2020, protesters marched by the hundreds to Churchill Downs while a sign with the words “arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” was flown in the sky.

Local activists, members of the NFAC militia, and social justice organization Until Freedom rallied for justice and confronted police officers stationed around the facility. That was the scene outside a delayed Kentucky Derby 146, with no fans in the stands due to COVID-19.

This year, as Churchill Downs welcomes back racing fans, local organizers said there will be police protests.

“This is the time that we need to apply pressure to these particular officers,” organizer Aprile Hearn said. “It’s more than that, it’s more than just No Justice, No Derby. We want you to partner with us agree to help us. We see you bringing all this money in and yet the communities around you are still suffering.”

On Friday, protesters with the Better Dayz Youth Coalition plan to gather from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Louisville Professional Standards Unit on Virginia Ave. Protest supporters are asked to rally outside, while those with grievances against LMPD officers file their complaints inside.

Event organizers told WAVE 3 the protest is not connected to Derby though they recognize there will be extra attention on them and they’re prepared for confrontations with police.

“If you want to build trust in our community, let’s work on building a safer community... Well for our part, let’s identify the officers who are bringing us harm,” organizer Marie Bingle said.

On Saturday, the “Say Her Name Bike Ride” group plans to hold a “No Justice No Derby” protest starting at 12:30 pm. According to a Facebook post, the event is open to protesters on foot as well as bikes; participants asked to bring signs.

Organizations outside Louisville like Until Freedom and the NFAC have not indicated they will join local activists.

“One thing we’re not going to do, we’re not going to quit fighting for what really matters, Derby is the key to a lot of things,” protester Chris Wells said.

In a statement, Louisville police told WAVE 3 they are prepared for “large events” at Kentucky Derby 147:

“LMPD will utilize our officers and specialty units within the racetrack, providing coverage as coordinated with the Churchill Downs security team. The outer perimeter of the racetrack will be staffed as usual, primarily for traffic and pedestrian safety. We are prepared for a large event, as we are every year, and for any security issues that may arise surrounding these gatherings.”

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