GR Commission holds public forum on ‘Breonna Taylor Way’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is looking at designating Monroe Center in downtown to Breonna Taylor.

The 26-year-old was shot and killed by police at her Louisville Apartment on March 13. Documents show police were there serving a “no-knock” warrant at the time.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was at the apartment with her that night, said he woke up believing their home was being broken into and fired a shot.

Police, who claim they announced themselves, returned fire. At a news conference, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron confirmed six bullets hit Taylor. He says one of the shots was fatal. Cameron said several of the bullets hit neighboring apartments.

One of the three officers connected to the case, Brett Hankinson, was fired for “blindly firing” into neighboring apartments. Last week, a grand jury indicted Hankinson on wanton endangerment charges, meaning he was charged for bullets fired into neighboring apartments, not those that hit Taylor.

Taylor, who grew up in Grand Rapids, has since sparked several national movements.

“It’s difficult because when we see her photos, we remember what we know of her,” said Tawanna Gordon, who is a cousin of Taylor and still resides in the Grand Rapids area. “I think for many of us in the family, we are still not completely healed.”

In July, local nonprofit Justice for Black Lives submitted a request to the city for a commemorative designation of Monroe Center to honor Taylor’s memory. If approved, the street would adorn the honorary name “Breonna Taylor Way.”

Tuesday night, the city held a public forum on the matter. Grand Rapids city commissioners listened to almost an hour of public comment.

“This is not the unity that we need for our city. This is only going to cause more division, so I’m totally against it,” said one man who called in to express his opinion on the street designation.

A handful of callers had a similar opinion, citing the “political ideas” of Justice for Black Lives. Others said they don’t believe Taylor was “someone to look up to” because of the “people she was affiliated with.”

“Breonna belonged to a family, a family that will never be the same. The least the city can do is give her an honorary road,” said one caller.

The majority of callers were in support of the honorary name change. Several denounced claims of Taylor being involved in criminal acts, calling her a hero for her work as an EMT in Louisville.

“Breonna Taylor was a GR city native, and I believe it’s right that the city pays homage to her legacy,” said another caller.

Taylor’s family says the change wouldn’t give their family justice but is an acknowledgment of her life.

“She contributed so much as an essential worker. It would matter so much to our community to know that Grand Rapids has basically acknowledged most of what America is refusing to: She mattered,” Gordon said.

Gordon says they’re hoping to see police reform here in the state of Michigan, including the immediate discontinuation of chokeholds and no-knock warrants. They say these changes can prevent another family from going through what they’ve experienced.

“We know that Breonna would want everyone to be able to unite for a better reason other than independent disputes and come together and fight for this country because if we don’t, we’re going to lose so much more than the life that we lost before,” Gordon said.

Grand Rapids city commissioners did not vote on the commemorative name change but plan to continue the discussion at their upcoming October meeting.

Gordon said her family remains committed to getting justice for Taylor, despite the indictment announcements last week. Wednesday, the Kentucky Attorney General is expected to release audio from the grand jury that presided over the case per a judge’s order.

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