Thousands of people gathered throughout the country on Friday with flowers, balloons, and birthday cards for Breonna Taylor to mark what would have been her 27th birthday. Taylor was shot and killed by police officers nearly three months ago in her own home.
Police entered Taylor’s home in Louisville, Kentucky, on the night of March 13 while she and her boyfriend were in bed. Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker told the 911 operator on the night of the incident that the officers “kicked down the door” and shot her. Taylor’s family has filed a lawsuit, saying that the officers who showed up were in plainclothes and unmarked cars, and did not announce who they were. Taylor and her boyfriend thought the officers were burglars, according to the suit.
The country has erupted in nationwide protests over the past week over police behavior, including Taylor’s death and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protests continued on Friday, which also marked National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and many groups focused on memorializing Taylor.
In her home city of Louisville, Kentucky, dozens gathered in Jefferson Square Park to write birthday cards to send to Taylor’s family, reported CBS affiliate WLKY. They also wrote letters to officials urging them to charge and fire the officers involved in Taylor’s death. So far, the three officers involved have been put on administrative leave, WLKY reports, and officials have said an investigation and further disciplinary action will take time.
Taylor’s family is also planning a vigil and balloon release at Louisville Metro Hall of Justice on Saturday.
Her mom, Tamika Palmer, told The Cut about the love she had for her daughter, who she said “was destined to be great.”
“Breonna just loved life, and people gravitated towards her. She lit up a room and had this aura about herself. She was also such a diva at the same time,” she said. “…I was always telling her growing up, ‘We got to change history.’ I told her ‘I’ve already done the teen-mom thing, so everything you gotta do, you gotta be better than me.’ And she just was.”
“She did everything right. She always wanted to do anything that would help her be a better friend, a daughter, a girlfriend. I was definitely in awe of her,” Palmer continued. “For her to die the way she did was a smack in the face. It just feels like they took a piece of me. It’s hard to breathe without her. It’s hard to think without her. She was so much like me it’s unreal. But she was a much better version.”
Palmer added that celebrating Taylor’s birthday is “overwhelming,” and recollected on past birthdays, when Taylor would have her loved ones dress up to go out to dinner, and have a good time.
“What happened to her should never happen to anybody,” Palmer said. “We want justice.”
A peaceful protest was also held n Hollywood, California, in honor of Taylor.
Hundreds gathered along Sunset Boulevard, holding signs and dancing, CBS Los Angeles reported. Event organizer Sade Sellers spoke to CBS LA and said that they came together to commemorate Taylor’s birthday. Local businesses allowed the protesters to use their restrooms, as well as their electricity so a DJ could play music.
“The mood out here is just so peaceful, it’s so loving. Everyone is just here to celebrate Breonna. They’re dancing, they’re hugging, they’re meeting each other. There’s kids here,” Sellers said. “I can’t express how warm my heart is seeing everyone come out for her today.”
Sellers added that while they are there to celebrate Taylor’s life, they are also there to remind the community and officials that justice still needs to be served.
“We’re no longer going to stand by and allow this country to treat any of us besides like we’re citizens, besides like we’re Americans. We deserve to have justice served,” Sellers said. “And Breonna, today is her birthday. She would’ve been 27 today. I’m 30 years old. She should be here celebrating her birthday and she is not and that is a privilege a lot of us get to have is to celebrate a birthday. I will never take for granted celebrating a birthday ever again in my life.”
In New York, thousands marched on Manhattan’s east side and CBS New York also reported a group demonstrated in lower Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, along with several rallies, protests, and a vigil in Brooklyn.
A trumpeter played music for gathered protesters in Washington Square Park, and a large group sang “Happy Birthday” for Taylor.
“I could cry right now, ’cause it’s so sad. But I’m so happy so many people came together for Black lives. It’s amazing honestly,” one protester told CBS New York.
Thousands have made it a point to wish Taylor a happy birthday on Twitter.
The official Black Lives Matter page said, “We honor you today and always. Rest, now,” along with a video of photos of Taylor.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia tweeted out a video of hundreds in Richmond singing “Happy Birthday.”
Award-winning actress Viola Davis tweeted birthday wishes, with a digital painting of Taylor made by a teenage artist.
“We have not forgotten you or the countless Black women who were murdered senselessly,” Davis said. “Your life mattered.”