LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky’s governor on Saturday called in the National Guard to “help keep the peace” in Louisville after a second night of protests sparked by the police shooting of a black woman led to widespread damage.
Gov. Andy Beshear said he didn’t want to silence protesters but decided to activate the Guard to quell the actions of “outside groups” that are “trying to create violence.”
His action came after the unrest Friday night spread through parts of downtown Louisville, resulting in windows being shattered and small fires being set. Police said six people were arrested during Friday’s protest, which began peacefully but grew more destructive as the night went on.
During the protests, a police officer was seen on camera firing what appeared to be pepper balls at a news crew during a live television broadcast.
A crew from WAVE-TV was on air when reporter Kaitlin Rust was heard yelling off-camera: “I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!” Video shows a police officer aiming directly at the camera crew, as Rust describes the projectiles as “pepper bullets.”
A clip of the WAVE-TV broadcast posted to Twitter amassed more than 8 million views in less than six hours, and was retweeted more than 50,000 times, including by other journalists and rapper Ice-T.
Louisville Police spokeswoman Jesse Halladay apologized for the incident. Halladay said police would review the video and “if we need to do any investigation for discipline, we will do that.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, standing in front of a business with broken windows Saturday morning, imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Kentucky’s largest city.
“The tone clearly changed last night. The number of people on our street clearly changed last night, as well,” Fischer said. “This turned from being a peaceful protest into violence and terrorism and looting on the streets of our city.”
Several downtown businesses had windows shattered and graffiti sprayed on walls.
About 350 National Guard members will be sent to Louisville to assist police Saturday afternoon.
Louisville’s protests followed the release of a 911 call by shooting victim Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend made March 13, moments after the 26-year-old EMT was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door. No drugs were found in her home. Taylor’s death has captured national headlines alongside the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February and George Floyd, the black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air.
Protesters carried signs calling for justice for Taylor and Floyd, whose death has touched off protests across the country this week. The use of nonlethal force on the WAVE-TV crew happened the same day CNN employees were arrested live on air while covering protests in Minnesota.
Gunfire erupted during earlier Louisville protests on Thursday night, wounding seven people.
Beshear, a Democrat, has pledged to listen to the frustrations of protesters and to “do everything I can to help moving forward.” But he said he wants to make sure that “we are all safe” in deciding to call in guardsmen to reinforce Louisville police.
“The demonstrations in Louisville have all started peacefully, but what we have seen, especially last night, and what our intelligence says is going to happen, are outside groups moving in, trying to create violence to harm everybody who is on those streets,” Beshear said Saturday. “We cannot let Breonna’s legacy be marred by violence, and we can’t let our streets turn violent.”