Vigil, protest for Breonna Taylor, Dion Johnson draw small crowds in Phoenix

Madeline Ackley
| Arizona Republic

Two groups planned a candlelight vigil and a protest in downtown Phoenix on Thursday night in response to two pieces of news: Monday’s announcement that the state trooper who fatally shot Dion Johnson will not face charges, and Wednesday’s grand jury decision in Louisville, Kentucky, not to indict officers in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Among protests around the country this week, the local vigil was organized by the W.E. Rising Project, a protest group against police violence and systemic racism that has been responsible for many marches and vigils over the last several months in Phoenix. 

“It’s been a long, tough week,” W.E. Rising organizer Itoro Elijah told The Arizona Republic before the event. “There’s always the hope that we will be heard.”

Protests in Louisville on Wednesday left at least 46 people in custody and two police officers wounded. 

Brielle Riche, a spokesperson for the W.E. Rising Project, said that the vigil was meant to take a more proactive approach. 

“As organizers, it is important that we move from being reactionary to being proactive and impactful,” and “pay homage and honor the lives lost,” said Riche. 

It’s about “honoring the lives disrespected by the verdict,” she said.

At least 120 people gathered about 8 p.m. outside the old City Hall plaza near Washington Street and Third Avenue in Phoenix, including Johnson’s mother, Erma Johnson. The group held candles quietly.

Earlier this week, after the announcement in her son’s case, Erma Johnson said “The system failed me, it failed my son and it fails us Black people.”

A separate group planned a protest at the same location for 9 p.m. 

It was the fourth night in a row of small protests in response to Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s decision not to charge Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper George Cervantes in Johnson’s death, with crowds ranging from about a dozen people to about 50.

Reach the reporter at or on Twitter @Mkayackley.


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