Chicago and Illinois officials urged people to protest peacefully in wake of the grand jury decision on Breonna Taylor's shooting Wednesday, but said no preemptive closures will be in place ahead of potential events.
"We have experienced a lot this summer, and we’ve experienced instances where peaceful protests have turned violent," Lightfoot said. "We have a choice to make, and that is how we will respond to this news, how we will honor the legacy of Breonna Taylor. My hope is every one of us, regardless of how we feel about this verdict….we need to do so peacefully."
Illinois Gov. Pritzker on Tuesday put the Illinois National Guard in “a state of readiness” ahead of the grand jury's announcement. On Wednesday, he promised state support for any cities that may need assistance in wake of the decision.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown also promised officers would work to ensure those who feel the need to protest are protected.
"We’re going to do everything we can to protect and support peaceful expression of First Amendment rights," Lightfoot said. "When people step over the line, we are ready and we will be ready to address that with the appropriate level of response.
I don’t want to speculate. We’re not there, but if we get there, we’ll be ready."
Unlike in preparation or reaction to previous protests, Lightfoot said there are no planned bridge lifts or street closures in Chicago Wednesday, but other preparations were underway.
"We’ve pre-positioned resources along commercial corridors in the neighborhoods. But again, my hope is that people are gonna express themselves peacefully," she said, "If the need arises, we’ll try to communicate as quickly as we can. We have a system of alerts we’ve used as recently as the last few days. We will be mindful of the fact, especially with public transit, people are relying on it to go to and from their jobs. We try to give an hour, if not longer, and we will try to do that. Circumstnaces may dictate that the timeline will shrink, but we will try to be respectful of people going about their lives."
Already Wednesday, one group planned to shut down the intersection of 79th and Racine in response to the decision. Another event was planned at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue.
Lightfoot asked city residents to join her for a moment of silence honoring Taylor Wednesday evening.
"Breonna Taylor’s family has consistently called for peace, and urged people who are acting in her name to do so in a way that builds, not destroys, community," Lightfoot said in a press conference immediately following the ruling. "In honor of their request for peace, I urge all Chicagoans to join me tonight at 7 p.m. for a citywide moment of silence in honor of the life of Breonna Taylor. Stand on your porch or sidewalk or wherever you are, please take a moment of silence and reflection in her memory."
Lightfoot, joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Pritzker and several other state officials, criticized the grand jury's decision to not charge any officers for their role in Taylor's death.
The grand jury on Wednesday instead indicted a single police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments. Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid on the night of March 13.
"This ruling is absolutely heartbreaking," Lightfoot said. "It leaves more questions than it answers. My fear is that it reinforces the deeply held notion that there are two systems of justice. As a lawyer, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, I know our justice system feels unfair, and can be brutal, especially to people of color. We must keep fighting to bring equity to that flawed system."
Immediately after the announcement, people were expressing frustration that the grand jury did not do more.
"Peaceful protest is powerful," Preckwinkle said. "However, we cannot meet the violence of the police with violence of our own. It gives ammunition to those who do not share our concern for racial justice. Your voice, your words, your vote represent the path forward for change."
Pritzker called the decision a "gross miscarriage of justice."
"A grand jury made a decision that doesn’t come close to capturing the injustice of what we know to have happened on that tragic night in March when Breonna Taylor, an innocent young woman, was killed by law enforcement officers as she slept in her own home," he said. " That charge does not address the loss of her life. Not nearly."
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
Protesters have consistently pressured State Attorney General Daniel Cameron to act, and celebrities and pro athletes had joined them in calling on the attorney general to charge the police who shot Taylor. At one point, demonstrators converged on his house and were charged with felonies for trying to intimidate the prosecutor.
Before charges were brought, Hankison was fired from the city’s police department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the white officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison, Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed on administrative reassignment after the shooting.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
"What do we tell our children when they ask us why? How can we explain that an unarmed person can be killed by police, and there are no consequences when they have Black skin like mine? What do we tell our children when they ask how many more?" said Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. "We tell them that Black Lives Matter. We want them to grow up with the knowledge that their lives matter too. It is okay to be angry, because I’m angry. It’s okay to cry because I’ve cried. It is okay to pray, because, as a woman, sometimes my faith is all I have to hold onto in a moment like this. The fight for justice continues, and that our young people are leading the way as they always have. It is the peaceful expressions of pain and frustration in moments like these that are shifting the atmosphere and it is those peaceful protests that will shatter the norms and push through real transformation. We will tell them that her Black life mattered, and that she should be alive today. Breonna Taylor is any one of us, and she is all of us. Breonna Taylor is me. Let us continue to say her name."