LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — During a virtual court hearing in Fayette County Thursday, dozens of participants changed their backgrounds to read “Drop the Charges,” referring to the charges against about 10 protesters arrested last summer during the Black Lives Matter protests.
The protesters, including organizers Sarah Williams and April Taylor, are facing charges that range from inciting a riot to disorderly conduct. They are facing separate trial dates in August.
It was not clear how the supporters of the participants were able to get into the Zoom room, but the message they were sending was clear.
"I don't see any reason why they should be charged with inciting a riot,” said Robin Kunkel, a community organizer with the group Showing Up for Racial Justice. “I was present at many of the protests. I never saw any behavior that qualifies as a riot.”
Kunkel was unable to log into the call due to large number of people already participating, but she helped craft a press release this week in which the SURJ and local NAACP chapter demanded that the charges be dropped.
She spoke to LEX 18 via Zoom Thursday afternoon.
“I thought the conduct [over the summer] was peaceful,” Kunkel said. “It was disruptive to, you know, daily life, but I didn't see anyone getting injured. I didn't see anything getting broken. People were just exercising their free speech rights.”
Kunkel, who said she is close with Williams and Taylor, believes the sisters should be praised, rather than punished.
She pointed to the impact the protests had in prompting Mayor Linda Groton to form the Commission on Racial Justice and Equality. The commission recently returned a 68 page report containing dozens of recommendations to improve the lives of Black people in Lexington.
"It seems contradictory to that message to then be punishing them for their activity,” Kunkel said.
A spokesperson for the mayor sent LEX 18 the following:
“The Mayor will leave these decisions to the judicial system. It’s not appropriate for her to weigh in on cases that are coming before the courts. She cannot order criminal charges dropped, as some have suggested.”