Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush Mistakenly Called ‘Breonna’ After Wearing Face Mask

Olivia Blair
·12-min read
Photo credit: Cori Bush - Instagram
Photo credit: Cori Bush - Instagram


The death of George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes in Minneapolis, brought renewed focus to the loss of lives of Black people at the hands of police officers.

One of these cases is that of Breonna Taylor, who died in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky six months ago.

Black Lives Matter supporters have been rallying for justice over Breonna's death during the recent global protests, with many bearing her name on signs and celebrities sharing illustrations of the 26-year-old on social media.

Though Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck has been charged and is awaiting trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter, justice has not been achieved. Not for Floyd and certainly not for Breonna, whose death has gone unpunished.

Photo credit: Natasha Moustache - Getty Images
Photo credit: Natasha Moustache - Getty Images

The most recent development is that the police force has agreed to pay a settlement to her family over Breonna's death, here's everything else to know about the case.

Who Was Breonna Taylor?

Breonna was a 26-year-old Black woman who worked as a medical technician in the A&E department of two local hospitals. She previously worked in the same role for the City and hoped to have a long career in healthcare, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

'She had a whole plan on becoming a nurse and buying a house and then starting a family. Breonna had her head on straight, and she was a very decent person,' Breonna's mother Tamika Palmer told the local newspaper after her death. 'She didn't deserve this.'

She had a boyfriend who she lived with in the city, Kenneth Walker.

What happened to Breonna Taylor?

On March 13, three officers stormed into the apartment that Breonna and Kenneth shared just after midnight. The warrant that they were in possession of is known as a 'no knock warrant' meaning that the officers could enter the property without declaring themselves as police (according to the Journal, officers say they declared themselves but this has been disputed by neighbours and witnesses).

The couple were reportedly in bed, and got up at the sound of people entering the house. The police say that Walker fired a gunshot injuring a police officer in the leg.

The police fired several shots during their attendance at the apartment, shooting Breonna eight times.

The accounts of what happened vary greatly, depending on whether it's the police's or witness' statements. According to The New York Times, the police say they were 'immediately met with gunfire' so shot back.

Walker - who family and lawyers say was licensed to carry a gun - says he shot in self-defence because he didn't know it was police who had entered his house and thought it was an intruder. A panicked Walker can be heard tearfully calling 911, and saying 'somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,' in a recording released by the family's lawyers. Walker was arrested for shooting an officer, but the charges were dropped weeks later.

Photo credit: Brett Carlsen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Brett Carlsen - Getty Images

According to reports, neither Breonna nor Walker were named as a person of interest in the drugs crime the police were investigating. Their property was listed on a search warrant on suspicion of being a place used by another suspect to receive and store drugs (the family's suit say the suspect was also already in custody, questioning the need to raid the couple's flat). No drugs were found on their property and neither Breonna nor Walker had any previous convictions.

The Latest Developments In The Case Of Breonna Taylor

On September 23, a police officer involved in the fatal shooting of Taylor was charged over the narcotics raid that resulted in her death.

Brett Hankison has been charged, not with the 26-year-old’s death, but with ‘wanton endangerment’ for firing his gun into a neighbour's apartment in Louisville.

Kentucky Attorney General Mr Cameron said it was not clear if Hankison's shots had hit Taylor, but they had hit a neighbouring apartment. Cameron said a ballistics report had showed that six bullets struck her, but only one was fatal.

The other two other officers who were involved in the incident have not been charged.

Photo credit: Natasha Moustache - Getty Images
Photo credit: Natasha Moustache - Getty Images

Kentucky law states that a person is guilty of wanton endangerment if they commit an act that shows ‘an extreme indifference to the value of human life’. The lowest-level felony offence can come with a five-year sentence for each count, according to the BBC. Hankison has been charged on three counts.

For months, Taylor's relatives, activists and celebrities have been calling for the officers involved in the woman’s death to be charged with murder or manslaughter. However, this has been rejected by a grand jury after it reviewed the evidence.

Several celebrities have since spoken out following news of Hankison’s charge, angered that no officers would be directly charged for the death of Taylor.

Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images
Photo credit: The Washington Post - Getty Images

Gabrielle Union retweeted Malcom X’s quote which reads: ‘The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.’

‘This is is a PRIME example of Rotten to the CORE!!! UnJust!!!! Disrespectful and BLATANT DISREGARD!!!! Infuriated!!!!!!!’ Alicia Keys added.

‘Bullsh*t decision!!! BLACK LIVES MATTER!!! Cannot be said enough times,[sic]’ Viola Davis added.

Yara Shahidi noted on Instagram: ‘What is most insulting is that the recommended charges aren't even in response to the MURDER of Breonna Taylor, but to the POTENTIAL injury of other people in the apartment…..

“No knock warrants” feels analogous to the experience of being Black in America … The unsolicited intrusion of racism and violence dealt with on a daily basis.’

Lebron James tweeted: 'The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond! [sic]'

In a statement obtained by the PA news agency, George Clooney has said: 'I was born and raised in Kentucky. Cut tobacco on the farms of Kentucky. Both my parents and my sister live in Kentucky. I own a home in Kentucky, and I was there last month.

'The justice system I was raised to believe in holds people responsible for their actions. Her name was Breonna Taylor and she was shot to death in her bed by three white police officers, who will not be charged with any crime for her death.

'I know the community. I know the commonwealth. And I was taught in the schools and churches of Kentucky what is right and what is wrong. I’m ashamed of this decision.'

Photo credit: Anadolu Agency - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anadolu Agency - Getty Images

A state of emergency has since been declared in Louisville and the National Guard have been deployed after protests broke out and two policemen have been shot.

Protests over the grand jury's decision have also been held in New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago.

On September 15, lawyers for Breonna's family confirmed that the police have said they will pay $12 million (£9.3m) to the family over the 26-year-old's death, roughly six months after she was killed.

According to the BBC, the family lawyer Lonita Baker said the fight for justice for Breonna was 'multi-layered' and the agreed settlement is just one faction of that. The settlement also includes some police reform measures.

'Today what we did here was to do what we could do to bring a little bit of police reform and it's just a start,' Baker told a press conference. 'But we finished the first mile in the marathon and we've got a lot more miles to go to until we achieve and cross that finish line.'

Photo credit: Brandon Bell - Getty Images
Photo credit: Brandon Bell - Getty Images

Included in this marathon is a fight for criminal charges to be levied against the officers involved in the incident, with Breonna's mother stressing she will continue to fight for this and asked supporters to continue saying her daughter's name out loud.

'As significant as today is, it's only the beginning in getting full justice for Breonna,' Palmer told the conference. 'We must not lose focus on what the real drive is.'

As far as previous updates in the case go, on June 24, Louisville police announced that one of the officers involved in the incident which saw Breonna lose her life, Detective Brett Hankinson has been fired from the force.

The letter to Hankinson was shared on Twitter, explaining to him that he had violated police codes when he shot Breonna multiple times, saying his actions 'displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life'.

But, protesters, activists and the family of Breonna (her mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit) say this is not enough. There were three officers involved and none of them have been charged.

Earlier developments include a 'Breonna's law' being passed outlawing the use of 'no knock' police raids in Louisville.

Breonna's death is also being investigated by the FBI. The governor of Kentucky has also ordered a review.

Democratic congresswoman Cori Bush wears face mask in honour of Breonna Taylor

The US presidential election marked a win for more than just President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

From the re-election of the ‘Sisterhood Squad’ - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib - to Stacey Abrams’s instrumental hand in increasing voter registration in Georgia, Black women and women of colour have truly made a sizeable impact on the current political landscape.

Newly-elected Cori Bush joined the ranks in those making historic political wins for women of colour earlier this month, when she became Missouri’s first black congresswoman.

Photo credit: Sarah Silbiger - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sarah Silbiger - Getty Images

During the new House members orientation on Friday 13 November, the politician chose to honour Breonna Taylor’s memory by wearing a face mask emblazoned with the 26-year-old's name.

According to Bush, this heartfelt commemoration was not recognised by some of her Republican colleagues, who were seemingly unfamiliar with Breonna’s name and instead believed it to be a form of name tag. She claims some congressional Republicans resorted to calling her ‘Breonna’, as a result.

Bush subsequently took to Twitter and Instagram to explain the incident:

‘It’s Day One, so I’m wearing my “Breonna Taylor” mask,’ she wrote. ‘A few of my Republican colleagues have called me Breonna, assuming that’s my name [sic].

The congresswoman-elect stated ‘it hurts. But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress’.

She later shared a video on Instagram of an interview she took part in, explaining the reason for wearing the mask, which she's since worn throughout her orientation.

'I am Breonna Taylor as far as I could be a Black woman murdered in my bed tonight. But I am not Breonna Taylor,' she captioned the clip.

Breonna Taylor's memorial to be moved to museum

A memorial for Breonna Taylor will soon be moved from a park into a nearby museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

On November 2, TIME magazine reported that the outdoor memorial of artwork and a mural honouring Taylor, currently situated at Jefferson Square Park, will be moved to the Roots 101 African American Museum.

Museum founder Lamont Collins has reportedly said that the memorial space will be located in a room overlooking the Ohio River, honouring victims of police brutality and those who have lost their lives during protests.

Photo credit: Jon Cherry - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jon Cherry - Getty Images

‘When we buried our ancestors, those who went before us — traditionally, we always buried them near water,’ Collins reportedly on Sunday November 1. ‘We have a riverview area here at the museum. So my suggestion is, let’s give her and other people that have died at the protests a room to always honour what they did before us.’

The publication reports Collins says that one side of the room will hold a casket marked with the names of victims of police brutality and hate crimes, while the other will have mementos in honour of Taylor.

Celebrities Have Been Demanding Justice For Breonna Taylor

Many celebrities have paid tribute to Breonna and expressed their outrage over the lack of action over her death, which now happened three months ago.

Beyoncé has wrote an open letter to the Attorney General in Kentucky, shared on her website, saying the police's investigation has left 'more questions than answers' and called for arrests of the three officers, a commitment to a transparent investigation and investigation into the police's response to Breonna's death as well as the 'pervasive practices that result in the repeated deaths of unarmed Black citizens'.

Jennifer Lawrence, who also comes from Louisville, made a rare statement on social media calling for action over Breonna's death too.

June 5th should have been Breonna's 27th birthday, so on that day thousands of people and celebrities paid tribute to the ER technician on social media including Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Katie Holmes, Gabrielle Union, Hailey Bieber, Emma Watson and many more.

How Can I Help?

There are existing petitions you can sign to demand justice for Breonna, like this one on or Colour of Change as well as heeding the advice of Beyoncé, Lawrence and more by writing a letter to Kentucky's Attorney General demanding action. In the UK, you can write to your MP asking them about their support of Black Lives Matter and seeking justice for Breonna and other victims.

A GoFundMe page to support Breonna's family also exists. Locally, there is a Louisville bail fund too to support activists and protesters who have been arrested during uprisings in the area.

There are also UK and US based charities and organisations that fight against institutional racism, police brutality and supporting Black communities, of which you can find a list here.

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