Prison Radio

“Her name, Breonna Taylor, has become a call to be chanted and shouted at protests.” So began Mumia Abu-Jamal in his recent commentary “Breonna’s Deathbed.” 

Mumia compared Taylor’s assassination—shot in her bed by armed police who burst without warning into her home—to that of Fred Hampton more than 50 years earlier. “Over 50 years later,” Mumia intoned, “Black lives still don’t matter.” 

But in the week since last Wednesday’s grand jury decision not to press murder charges over Taylor’s death, protestors in cities across the United States have taken to the streets to shout the opposite. On Sunday, SF Gate reported five straight days of protesting in Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, with protestors taking refuge in a Unitarian Church when cops cleared out the park for a 9:00 PM curfew, and showing up on the streets again the next day, shouting Breonna’s name and “Black Lives Matter.” 

When she died on that unforgettable thirteenth of March, Taylor joined what Mumia called the “roll call of the dead”: the ever-growing list of Black names called out at protests and scrawled on walls. Killed in the same week as George Floyd and Ahmoud Arbery,  Breonna Taylor was adopted as a symbol by the rising movement to put a final end to the destruction of Black lives by police brutality by putting an end to police.  

Last Wednesday, a grand jury announced its verdict: there was not sufficient evidence for the prosecution to claim in court that anyone had acted wrongly in Breonna Taylor’s death. No one denies the facts of the case: yes, the three policemen forced open the door without warning, in plain clothes, and yes they opened fire in a residential apartment and shot a woman to death as she lay in bed. But—with the exception of one officer who fired shots into the wall, which the grand jury counted as endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors—no crime was committed.  

In other words: Breonna Taylor’s death was a fair and legal use of police power. 

Mariame Kaba has said: “The police cannot be reformed, because the power of the police rests in the discretion to use violence.” The grand jury’s decision hammers home Kaba’s point. There will be no justice delivered by the criminal justice system in Breonna Taylor’s name. That system only ever sought Breonna Taylor’s death. Our shared goal must be its abolition, and it was that goal that drove people across the country to the streets on Wednesday, and then again every day after that through the weekend. 

These protests were led by those who have taken the present moment to grieve for those they’ve lost, but have shown remarkable courage in continuing to fight for Black liberation and for abolition. “America is on fire,” saidMumia in June, and it remains true today, “and the world has caught the blaze.”

Help us spread it. With every correspondence published by Prison Radio, we strike a blow against the system that killed Breonna Taylor. With every commentary uploaded to our website, an abolitionist working outside the prison walls gets a chance to hear the analysis of someone inside. 

At this critical point in history, Prison Radio’s work has taken on a renewed importance. As abolition grows into a mainstream demand of the left, as thousands cry in the streets for an end to policing, it is vital that the abolitionist movement continue to take its cues from our jailhouse truth-tellers. In order to continue pressing forward in the long walk to freedom led by our incarcerated family members, we need your support. 

Today, as we mourn Breonna Taylor’s death and renew our commitment to fight the system that killed her, we are asking for your generous contribution to our fall campaign. Will you join us?