Porsha Williams on Protesting: I've Had More Jail Time Than the Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor
PEOPLE’s Voices from the Fight Against Racism will amplify Black perspectives on the push for equality and justice
Known for speaking her mind on Bravo's Real Housewives of Atlanta, Porsha Williams is using her platform to raise awareness about Breonna Taylor. On March 13, the 26-year-old emergency room technician and aspiring nurse was asleep in her Louisville home when three police officers, who had a “no-knock” search warrant to look for a suspected drug dealer who did not live at Taylor's home, entered without warning. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he thought it was a break in, and fired a gunshot at the police, who then fired back over 20 shots. Taylor was killed.
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in the wake of George Floyd's May 25 death in Minneapolis police custody, Williams, 39, took a stand for justice at multiple protests. First, she was hit with tear gas at an Atlanta protest for Floyd on June 2. Then, she was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct and intimidating a participant in a legal process (the latter being a felony that was dropped) after a protest for Taylor outside Kentucky Attorney General's Daniel Cameron home on July 14. More recently, she was arrested at a Taylor protest in Louisville on Aug. 25 and charged with obstructing a highway and disorderly conduct (second degree).
On Tuesday, Taylor's family received a $12 million civil settlement from the city of Louisville, which did not admit any wrongdoing but promised changes to prevent deaths by officers, but Taylor's mother Tamika Palmer said the wrongful-death suit settlement is "only the beginning of getting justice for Breonna," and the state attorney general has not yet indicated whether charges will be brought against the officers.
In this essay for PEOPLE, Williams opens up about her outrage that the officers haven't been arrested — and how she's channeling that energy in the fight against systemic racism.
Breonna Taylor was killed in her home six months ago, and since then we have been calling for justice and the arrest of the cops who murdered her that day. It has taken too long for justice in this case, longer than most people are willing to wait — or pay attention to. And that’s why I, along with many others, have traveled to Kentucky not once, but twice. We will continue to bring attention and keep pressure on Attorney General Daniel Cameron as he does his investigation. He needs to know that we will not be pushed to the side. We will not be silenced.
What we’ve done so far has been incredibly powerful. The “Say Her Name” postings were a huge factor as to why Louisville put Breonna’s Law into effect, banning "no-knock" warrants. Seeing “Say Her Name” on the back of NBA players' jerseys while they’re in the bubble keeps people from being distracted by any return to normalcy. And our peaceful protests in Kentucky are showing the world what we are willing to sacrifice in the name of justice.
Yet as much as this delay upsets us, we have to be patient. We haven’t just been waiting for justice for six months — we’ve been waiting for centuries. It’s not only for Breonna Taylor, it’s also for the countless others who have been victims of police brutality. Right now, we are the voice of the voiceless — past, present and future.
It would be wrong of me to sit at home in my comfort while people I love are suffering injustice. I believe that love is an action word. I love my skin color, I love my heritage and I love my daughter. It is my job, my duty, to protect the things I love. Using my platform to raise awareness and create change for these issues is something I’m grateful for every day. But after a certain period of time, we recognized our voices were being ignored and it was time to take this a step further.
For more of PEOPLE’s Voices from the Fight Against Racism, click here.
The reason I kissed my daughter at home, got on a plane during a pandemic and protested in Kentucky two times now was because people were forgetting about the “extreme indifference to the value of human life," as Louisville Metro interim chief Robert Schroeder described former officer Brett Hankison's actions. We needed to escalate the conversation again and demand action. It doesn’t matter that one lost his job and the other officers — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — are on administrative reassignment. That’s not justice — that’s an eraser at best.
I’m so blessed to work with such an amazing organization like Until Freedom. With their help, I have now been able to be a part of something bigger than myself and put my love to work. I’ve been arrested twice in the name of justice and, ironically enough, have spent more time in jail than the people I’m protesting against. Yes, I can repeat that: I’ve now spent more time in jail than the people I’m protesting against.
What we want and need going forward is a sense of accountability and responsibility for wrongful actions so that this does not happen again. Justice, meaning these officers are arrested and put on trial, is what we need right now. Why? Because it shows other people, and specifically other police officers, that the unjust killing of Black women and men will not be tolerated anymore. It needs to be understood, because it clearly has not yet, that there are consequences to these actions that are bigger than just being reassigned or fired.
We are fighting so hard for Breonna because she, like many others, has become a face of our movement. In the fight for Breonna, we can’t forget that this could have been or could be any one of us. Justice for Breonna isn’t the final step, but it is an important and crucial one.
If the officers are ultimately arrested, Breonna Taylor will still be gone. Her beautiful mother that I got to meet in Kentucky will still grieve for the loss of her daughter. Yet by achieving justice we not only get closure for Breonna’s family, we also get one step closer to the ultimate goal: equality.
I am here to use my voice, my platform, my body and my being to get justice for Breonna Taylor, an African-American Queen. And as we continue to wait on the results of the attorney general’s investigation, we need to continue to use our voices, our platform and our love in order to call for and get that justice. Breonna's change.org petition has received over 10 million signatures and nothing has been done. Keep signing and keep letting them hear us.
We protested, and will continue to protest, because this is a movement and not just a moment. Injustice for one is injustice for all, and if we let this go now, we let it go forever. In the words of John Lewis, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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