Louisville Police Dept. Explains Why Officers Entered Tense Area Only After Militia Left

Tensions ran high as Black Lives Matter protesters in downtown Louisville, Kentucky were met with an armed militia on Saturday as protests continued calling for justice in the murder of Breonna Taylor. The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) did not appear until after most of the armed militia had left.

Led by an online personality called "The Angry Viking," hundreds of self-described "patriots" initiated a rally at Cox's Park and moved into the downtown area just before noon, many armed with long guns and flying Trump flags. They confronted the BLM protesters just outside of Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby will take place that evening after a four-month delay.

After roughly an hour of very minimal police presence and increasing yelling and tension between the two groups, the armed militia began to leave the area. At that moment, at least a dozen Louisville police officers began arriving in riot gear, according to The Courier-Journal. Although most of the counterprotesters had already left the scene, Louisville police formed a barricade to separate the two groups and get people moving off of the streets and onto sidewalks.

People quickly took notice of LMPD's delay in response and took aim at the Louisville police on social media. In a Twitter post, the LMPD released a statement explaining their visible absence during the confrontation earlier that afternoon.

"Because of the large-scale protests anticipated for the Churchill Downs area, the bulk of LMPD resources are staged near the track. We had several units located around the area of Jefferson Square when the two groups made contact.

"Due to the size of the crowd, we determined it was not safe to go in and we did not want to escalate the situation with police presence," the LMPD wrote. "Therefore, it was best to stage, call for additional resources to come downtown and see what developed. The two groups continued to engage, working to separate themselves from each other."

They added: "As the tensions subsided and the groups began to move together down Jefferson toward Second Street, we were able to safely bring officers into the area to create a barrier across Jefferson to separate the two groups."

Louisville Protests
Angry Viking, the leader of a right-wing militia, speaks to protesters in front of the Louisville courthouse on September 5, 2020. - Members of patriot militias marched in Louisville in support of local police officers. Jeff Dean / AFP/Getty

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville police on March 13 after plainclothes police officers stormed into her home under a no-knock drug warrant. Her death sparked civil unrest in the country as people protested systemic racism and police brutality.

According to reports, protesters at Jefferson Square Park could be heard chanting "Breonna Taylor," while counter-protesters repeatedly chanted, "USA." Protesters calling for justice for Taylor have demanded the cancellation of the Kentucky Derby this year.

Churchill Downs released a statement on Thursday defending their decision to host the race this year, while recognizing the community's concerns over racial injustice.

"Churchill Downs is committed to engaging in the hard conversations in our city, our sport and within our own organization," the statement read. "We are committed to taking real, concrete action to address institutional roadblocks to progress and playing our part in advancing the changes America so desperately needs."

Newsweek reached out to the Louisville Metro Police Department for comment.