“I was really frustrated to see her be erased in real time.”
— Cate Young, a Los Angeles based film and culture critic who founded #BirthdayForBreonna
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On Friday, Breonna Taylor would have turned 27.
Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was killed by the police on March 13 during a late night drug investigation in Louisville, Ky. Three officers barged into her apartment, using a so-called no-knock search warrant, which allows the police to enter without warning. Her boyfriend, who said he thought someone was breaking into the apartment, shot an officer in the leg. The police ended up shooting Taylor eight times.
To mark her birthday, thousands of demonstrators gathered in downtown Louisville at around 7 p.m. Many had been protesting all day in different parts of the city, but in the evening they gathered specifically for Taylor’s birthday. Her face, as painted by the artist Jaylin Stewart, was projected onto City Hall. The protesters sang “Happy Birthday.” They chanted “Say Her Name!” And they marched around the city for hours. There was anger and pain, but there was also hope and tender love.
Online, a campaign aimed to flood Instagram and Twitter with Taylor’s name using the hashtag #BirthdayForBreonna. The campaign’s other action items included signing an online petition calling for justice, donating to an online fund for Taylor’s family and sending birthday cards to Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, urging him to charge the three officers.
Some celebrities, like Kerry Washington, Busy Philipps and Charlize Theron, joined in by sharing the hashtag and the campaign’s list of action items. By Saturday afternoon, the online fund for Taylor’s family had raised more than $5 million — far exceeding its initial goal of $500,000.
“It has just been growing and growing,” said Cate Young, a Los Angeles-based film and culture critic, who created the campaign. “People really stepped up.”
In the weeks immediately after Taylor died, her case didn’t receive much news media and political attention, falling in line with a longstanding pattern in which police brutality against black women is rendered invisible.
“I had just been following the story about police brutality and about George Floyd, and her name stopped coming up,” Young said. “I was really frustrated to see her be erased in real time.”
Because she is immunocompromised, Young wasn’t able to participate in the protests against police brutality that are taking over cities across the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic. So she decided to galvanize people online.
“I just wanted to do something,” Young said. “I was like, I’m going to drive myself insane with worry and panic if I don’t do something.”
We should be showing up for black women “in the same way that we show up for black men,” she added.
Erik Branch contributed reporting from Louisville, Ky.