In a case that might well serve as an object lesson in the blurring lines between Democratic politicians and left-wing activists, a Kentucky state representative could face up to five years in prison for her alleged participation in a violent protest.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, state Rep. Attica Scott and her daughter, Ashanti Scott, were among at least 24 people arrested in Breonna Taylor demonstrations in Louisville on Thursday night. Almost all of them were arrested in the vicinity of the Louisville Free Public Library — a building into which someone threw a flare after breaking a window.
Also arrested was activist Shameka Parrish-Wright. The three women were released from jail Friday morning and are set to be arraigned on Oct. 6.
Each of the three is charged with one felony count of first-degree rioting and two misdemeanor counts for alleged failure to disperse and unlawful assembly. First-degree rioting is a Class D felony in Kentucky and can carry a sentence of between one and five years in prison.
Ted Shouse, Parrish-Wright’s attorney, called the charges “outrageous on their face” and said that neither his client nor Rep. Scott were involved in damaging the library.
Rep. Scott is the author of “Breonna’s Law,” a bill which would end no-knock warrants, which allow police to enter a home without first announcing themselves. (It’s worth noting that reports have disputed the story that a no-knock raid was responsible for Taylor’s death, with Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron saying the officers did announce themselves when they served a warrant to her residence).
According to the Courier-Journal, Scott has also “been a frequent presence at demonstrations throughout the summer.”
The state representative said she’d be fighting the charges, which she called “frivolous” and “trumped up.”
“[Louisville police] immediately jumped on us. They yelled, ‘Circle them, circle them,'” Scott said Friday, according to WLKY-TV. “I’ve never been arrested before, so I was pretty shocked because I couldn’t understand what was happening, and they gave us some trumped-up charges; and we got to go to court next month and fight them.”
Police, she said, “claimed we were trying to burn down library, which doesn’t make sense because I’ve been fighting for more funding for the libraries and the library is in my district. So, why would I try to burn it down? Makes no sense.”
Some, including at least one Democratic lawmaker and the library union, defended Scott.
“If you arrest the loudest voices fighting racial injustice in Louisville, we have to believe you want to silence the fight against racial injustice,” state Rep. Josie Raymond said in a Thursday night tweet.
If you arrest the loudest voices fighting racial injustice in Louisville, we have to believe you want to silence the fight against racial injustice. Let @atticascott4ky and @Seasoned4u out and get out of their way.
— State Representative Josie Raymond (@RepJosieRaymond) September 25, 2020
“Representative Scott has consistently been a vocal supporter of libraries and library workers and has been an ally specifically to our union through many battles,” AFSCME Local 3425 president Ashley Nichole Sims and vice president Val Pfister added in a statement.
“We have seen no proof that the flare thrown into the library has done any major damage, nor that Representative Scott had anything to do with it, and find these accusations inconsistent with her character and the constant support we have received from her.”
Lmpd have arrested Rep. Attica Scott, author of Breonna’s law pic.twitter.com/Gla14x8Es6
— Ryan Van Velzer (@RyanVanVelzer) September 25, 2020
The flare was thrown roughly around the time that the city’s 9 p.m. curfew went into effect. According to WDRB-TV, protesters had gathered on the grounds of the First Unitarian Church near the library after the church’s pastor, Rev. Lori Kyle, “advertised” the property as a safe space for those out after the curfew took effect.
“This is what churches are supposed to be, right?” Dawn Cooley, a Unitarian Universalist minister and coordinator of the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church’s Justice Center, told WDRB. “They’re supposed to be sanctuaries and havens for people who are in need, and so this is absolutely what all churches should be doing.”
Okay, protesters are at First Unitarian Church. We are past the 9 p.m. curfew but protesters say because they are on the church property and the church doors are open to them, they are good. @WLKY #BreonnaTaylor #LouisvilleProtests pic.twitter.com/UOzl01UYn9
— Shaquille Lord (@ShaqWLKY) September 25, 2020
Perhaps not this way, considering the curfew was designed to tamper down Louisville’s mephitic climate after the grand jury in the Taylor case only charged one of the police officers involved in the raid, and then only with wanton endangerment in charges that didn’t relate directly to her death.
In the rioting that followed, two police officers were shot and 127 people were arrested Wednesday night alone.
Scott’s defense seems to be that, as a lawmaker who had asked for more money to be put into the public library system, there was no way that she would either throw a flare into the library or countenance such a thing. On the first count, no one’s accusing her of that and one would be surprised to find her charged with such a thing. On the second count, there’s definitely room to call that into question.
Police say that Scott was part of a group that, in addition to the library incident, had graffitied public transit buses and broken windows at a restaurant.
Protesters were spotted condemning the individual who threw the flare through the library window, WDRB reported. Which is all well and good, but given that Scott is a Kentucky state lawmaker who was allegedly part of a group that police say had caused property damage, wouldn’t a prudent state representative remove themselves from the situation — particularly given the curfew in the city?
These are merely charges, of course, and could be “frivolous” and “trumped up.”
As for Rep. Scott’s judgment in the matter, that’s another question entirely. In the wake of two wounded police officers and no paucity of property damage, the efficacy of this as a way to effect change is dubious.
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