Over 100 people congregated at the Sterling Hall of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine on Thursday afternoon, protesting Wednesday’s announcement that no officers would be charged with murder in Breonna Taylor’s death.
The protest was led by Yale School of Medicine Deputy Dean and Chief Diversity Officer Darin Latimore — who organized the event with others in the YSM Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Community Engagement and Equity — immediately following the announcement. Latimore said he never had a concrete idea of what exactly he wanted to happen at the event, but that he hoped to foster a supportive environment.
“Last night I couldn’t sleep at all, and I thought, ‘I’m probably not the only one,’” Latimore said. “If we can do nothing else, we can create space for each other to come together, to create community and remember what’s important.”
These frustrations come after a summer of activism protesting police brutality against Black Americans. Three Louisville Metro Police Department officers fatally shot Taylor — an emergency room technician by trade — after forcibly entering her apartment on March 13 of this year. On Wednesday, a Kentucky grand jury did not charge any of the three officers with murder. One, Brett Hankison, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for imperiling a neighbor with his shots.
After kicking off Thursday’s event with a speech, Latimore opened up the floor to anyone who wished to speak. One speaker was Laura Fuller-Weston, a clinical laboratory technologist at the medical school. She said the landscape of racism in the U.S. is “getting worse and worse” but expressed hope for the future.
“I’m raising six children of color,” Fuller-Weston told the crowd. “I’m terrified of leaving them less than what our parents left for us. I can’t call the police and say help me. I can’t tell my children to go to a uniform anymore. But I refuse to give up hope, and I want to raise them to be the change they want to see. I hope we can share that in this community here.”
Although the email announcing yesterday’s protest was sent out around 8 a.m., over 100 people consisting of doctors, fellows, nurses, students and other Yale community members attended the protest. Protesters gathered around the Sterling Hall of Medicine’s outdoor plaza among food trucks and passing pedestrians.
Many attendees, like Fuller-Weston, were long-time New Haven residents, but Jose Paez, a YSM child psychiatry fellow, has only been at Yale for three months and has already felt the impacts of racism in the community.
“I’ve already received discrimination,” Paez said. “I see other people who have been here for 10 years, 20 years, but it doesn’t take that long to feel it. What gives me hope is the work I’m doing with the kids, to show them that we can make it to these places and model for them.”
Attendees initially hesitated to take the microphone, but more felt compelled to speak as the event went on.
Associate research scientist Montrell Seay emphasized the need for solidarity among members of the Yale medical community. He encouraged people from all backgrounds to play a role in the fight against institutionalized racism.
“We need to make sure that every organization, everybody, is sounding the alarm often,” Seay told the News. “We need to make sure that every person is doing their part, whether that’s marching in the streets, calling senators or coming to vigils like this.”
Although YSM has an office of diversity and inclusion, Linda Jackson — the office’s associate director — said there is always more work to be done. According to Jackson, the medical school “can’t do everything alone.”
Despite this, YSM has been making improvements recently, Latimore said.
“We are definitely as a community moving forward, without a question,” he said. “Since Floyd’s murder there have been many more conversations about social justice and what we need to do as a community to bring in people historically underrepresented in medicine. We’re working in the right direction.”
However, Latimore also acknowledged a need for further cooperation within the medical community. He noted that racial disparities in the health care system are often overlooked.
“Breonna Taylor is an example of the criminal justice system’s disparities, but we also have health care disparities that we as a community need to strive toward mitigating,” Latimore told the News.
Towards the end of the event, Latimore asked the crowd to repeat Breonna Taylor’s name. In addition, Ayotunde Ayobello — a clinical fellow in the Child Study Center — expressed optimism about the event’s high attendance.
“It’s so encouraging to see everyone coming out here,” Ayobello said. “It’s not just a Black thing, it’s not just a white thing — it’s a people thing, a human thing.”
The event was one of two Black Lives Matter protests held in New Haven on Thursday.
Lukas Nel | email@example.com
Owen Tucker-Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
Isaac Yu | email@example.com