Calls to 'arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor' have been turned into an online meme that some say has gone too far

A girl holding a sign asking justice for Breonna Taylor demonstrating in Mestre, Venice, Italy on June 6, 2020.Giacomo Cosua/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville Police in her own home on March 13. In May, her death drew mainstream attention and became a part of calls for justice for Black Americans killed by police.
  • In June, "arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor" became a recurring cry on social media, demanding accountability for those involved in her death.
  • In recent weeks, people have started to invoke the phrase as a kind of punchline, tagging it onto seemingly unrelated tweets, theoretically in an effort to keep Taylor's name circulating online.
  • Many, however, feel that the memes are disrespectful and trivialize her death.

Amid ongoing protests over police killings of Black Americans, people have been using social media as a means of naming those like George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, for whom they seek justice. However, as overwhelming calls to "arrest the cops who killed Bronna Taylor" have spread online, many are taking a stand against the meme-ification of the phrase, and in turn, Taylor's death.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was killed by the police in her home in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13. She was shot eight times by officers who burst into her home using a no-knock warrant as part of a narcotics investigation. The warrant was connected to a suspect who did not live at Taylor's apartment, and no drugs were found inside. Louisville's Metro Council recently banned no-knock search warrants, which allow police to enter without first announcing their presence.

As of June 23, Brett Hankison, one of the three officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor, had been fired by the Louisville Metro Police Department. Per ABC News, no disciplinary action has been taken against Myles Cosgrove or Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, the other two officers involved in the incident, but they have been reassigned to administrative duties. None of the officers have been arrested or charged with a crime.Advertisement

"Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor" has become a rallying cry for those seeking accountability for Taylor's death

"Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor" has become a kind of meme, with people tagging it onto the ends of seemingly unrelated tweets and slipping it into graphics that might draw people in before realizing what the text says.

While coy references to the phrase may be well-intentioned, many feel that the tone of the memes — and the use of Taylor's death seemingly as a punchline — is disrespectful to Taylor and detracts from the call for justice.

Mashable's Morgan Sung drew parallels between the meme-ification of "arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor" and Jeffrey Epstein memes, in which the phrase "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself" was repeated online ad infinitum until, she says, it effectively lost all meaning. Others online have drawn similar comparisons, with one person criticizing the commodification of the sentiment, saying, "The actual clear, vital message becomes a meme... I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up on coffee mugs."
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It appears that calls for accountability in Taylor's death actually have made it onto merch. There are shirts listed on Etsy featuring the phrase; one viral tweet raised the issue of a MAGA parody hat that crossed out the "great again" to instead write, "arrest the cop who killed Breonna Taylor." The creator of the hat, @prolifik_asf, posted on Instagram that he had decided to cease the selling of the hats and that those who purchased them would be offered a refund or for their money to go to the GoFundMe set up in Breonna Taylor's name.

NBC News' Kalhan Rosenblatt reported that some social media experts see how the memes can raise awareness for Taylor's death in online spaces and keep her name in the conversation. Others feel that the memes trivialize the loss of life and the issue at hand. "y'all have seem to forgotten breonna taylor was a real person who was murdered senselessly by the police," a tweet from @uncoollove reads. "it's pathetic that she's become the punchline to y'alls memes and tweets."Advertisement

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