Mike O’Connell said that while they believe LMPD has probably cause, the charges will be dismissed.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell announced he is dismissing felony charges for protesters arrested during a demonstration at Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home on July 14.
“While we do believe the LMPD had probable cause for the charge, in the interest of justice and the promotion of the free exchange of ideas, we will dismiss that charge for each protestor arrested this past Tuesday,” O’Connell said.
Louisville police originally defended their decision to charge the 87 protesters with felonies, releasing video of chants that made police believe the protesters were threatening Cameron’s safety.
According to police, in the video protesters are heard chanting “If we don’t get it, burn it down.”
“Prior to arriving at the home, it was stated the intent of the protest was to ‘escalate’ their actions, which in the past has indicated violent or destructive behavior,” LMPD Special Adviser Jessie Halladay said.
Protesters and legal experts questioned the charges, saying their words were taken out of context.
Linda Sarsour, co-founder of Until Freedom, said the goal was to escalate organizing, and organizers encouraged protesters not to resist arrest and continue nonviolent demonstrations.
“This chant of ‘If we don’t get it, shut it down. If we don’t get it, burn it down,’ is one that is used across the country and it refers specifically to oppressive systems that continue to keep Black people and people of color down,” Sarsour said. “So to try to imply that ‘burn it down’ meant some sort of threat to Daniel Cameron, although 87 people were trained in Kingian Nonviolence just a few hours before, is despicable.”
Shortly after O’Connell made the announcement, LMPD released this statement:
“Officers have to make the best decisions they can with the information they have at the time, and we appreciate that the County Attorney agreed that the officers in this case had probable cause to make the charges they did. The County Attorney must weigh several factors when considering next steps, and we respect the decision he announced today.
University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson said before a state can punish speech on the ground that is threatening or intimidating, the speech must be clearly targeted at someone.”