Far-right activists and self-described militia members and Black Lives Matter activists scuffle on the day of the Kentucky Derby today in Louisville, Kentucky. Reuters
Eileen AJ Connelly
As Kentucky Derby Day finally arrived in Louisville Saturday, hundreds of armed militia members marched through the city’s downtown to confront Black Lives Matter supporters who have been demonstrating for 101 straight days.
Hundreds of self-identified “patriots” carrying long guns, some waving American flags or Trump flags, marched from a parking lot to the downtown area where a different group of protesters were again calling for action in the Breonna Taylor case.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot dead when police burst into her home in the middle of the night on March 13.
There was shouting between the two sides when they came into contact, but despite some tense moments, the interactions appeared largely peaceful. No police were present on the ground during the confrontation, according to local radio station WFPL, though some were on rooftops and on nearby streets.
A group of Breonna Taylor protesters, some of whom were also armed, chanted “say her name: Breonna Taylor,” while the militia members responded by chanting “back the blue” and “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Both sides could also be heard shouting about who were the real “patriots.”
The counter-protesters had turned out in response to an online personality known as “The Angry Viking,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Dylan Stevens, the man reportedly behind “The Angry Viking,” told the Breonna Taylor protesters he does not oppose them, and he said his march would leave about a half hour after they arrived.
Stevens said he led the march to oppose a separate group, called NFAC, for “Not F–king Around Coalition,” which local media identified as a black militia. NFAC leader Grand Master Jay said in July he would “burn the city to the ground” if justice was not delivered for Taylor.
As the armed militia groups started to leave the area, Louisville police officers in riot gear arrived on the scene with only BLM protesters remaining, WFPL reporter Ryland Barton tweeted.
Separately, Churchill Downs, the racetrack where the Derby will be held, moved to take extra safety precautions following a police situation in the area, Louisville Metro Police Department spokesman Lamont Washington, the Courier Journal said.
“There is an active police situation near the backside to the track,” Washington said. “Because of that Churchill is taking additional precautions.” He did not provide any other details.
Police and National Guard were already guarding the track, which because of the coronavirus will not host spectators for the 146th running of the Derby. The pandemic delayed the venerated race back from its traditional date by four months.