'Wake Up Mitch': BLM Protesters Stage Rally Outside McConnell's KY Home

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home in Louisville, Kentucky, Friday morning to support the campaign of Democrat Charles Booker, a state representative, during the state's primary election next week.

"We marched to his house this morning as the sun was rising and were there to demand that he wake up and start serving the people of Kentucky and people around this country," said Stevie O'Hanlon, communications director for the Sunrise Movement, which organized and led the action, told Newsweek.

The protest, which was met with no opposition, lasted about an hour from around 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. No members of law enforcement showed up and it was unclear whether or not McConnell or his family were home at the time, O'Hanlon said.

Sunrise, which began in 2017, aims to "stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process," according to its website. The national organization has endorsed the Senate run of Booker, who recent polls show is narrowly ahead of fellow Democratic opponent Amy McGrath, but behind McConnell.

Kentucky Sunrise chapters joined in Friday's protest, along with several local partners including KY Youth Climate Strike, Bowling Green for Peace and Louisville Black Lives Matter organizers, Fernanda Scharfenberger, state director for KY Youth Climate Strike, told Newsweek.

The participants gathered around 5:15 a.m. at a location nearby McConnell's home and marched alongside Bardstown Road, a major street in Louisville, Scharfenberger said. Protesters sang songs and carried pots, pans and painted signs.

The organizers chose Friday to mount the event, as it was Juneteenth, which marks the day slaves in Texas learned they were freed in 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

In images and videos posted to several of the participating organizations' Twitter accounts, protesters are seen holding signs that read "No justice no sleep," "Wake up Mitch" and "Rise up."

Friday's action came together quickly to respond to the moment of crisis Kentucky is currently facing, Scharfenberger said.

"Leaders like McConnell have been asleep throughout this and only activating the Senate to truly enrich the elite and their friends," she said.

Breonna Taylor Vigil
Rev. Jesse Jackson delivers remarks during a vigil for Breonna Taylor on June 6, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor was shot and killed by police officers in her home in March. Brett Carlsen/Getty

The overall goal of the protest was to amplify the local demands and uprisings that have been happening across the state, particularly in the wake of Breonna Taylor's death, who was shot and killed by police officers in her Louisville home in March.

"It was both a calling out of McConnell and inviting him to wake up and take action with the recognition that knowing his track record that was not going to be his response," Scharfenberger said, "and instead realizing that we have a candidate, Charles Booker, who's ready to work alongside us and fight alongside us."

Booker, who was not present for Friday's action, has been a familiar face in many of the local protests.

"You may have seen [Booker] in the streets, protesting against state-sanctioned violence, protesting for climate justice, standing on the line for worker's rights," said protester Isaac Mackin in a video posted to the KY Youth Climate Strike's Twitter account.

"You may have even heard this man talk about the atrocities of the world, many of which Mitch McConnell enabled, from a first-person perspective," Mackin continued, gesturing to the house behind him.

Representatives from McConnell's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

This is not the first time protesters have gathered outside of McConnell's Kentucky home. Dozens arrived August 9, 2019, days after the mass shootings that occurred in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

McConnell's reelection campaign had called those protesters' actions "serious calls to violence."