Jefferson Square Park
© Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal
LMPD blocked off scene of a shooting, Jefferson Square Park, Louisville, KY, June 27, 2020.
Tents will no longer be allowed at Jefferson Square Park at any time, Louisville Metro Police Department officials said Sunday, in the aftermath of Saturday night's chaotic fatal shooting at the site of the ongoing Breonna Taylor protests.

But demonstrators have said they aren't planning to close up shop any time soon.

"The community that was built there is not ending because they decided to throw us out," Shameka Parrish-Wright said at a Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression press conference Sunday morning.

Most protesters in the park over the course of the past month have been "largely peaceful," LMPD spokesman Lamont Washington wrote in an overnight statement, and interim Chief Robert Schroeder echoed that notion in a Sunday afternoon press briefing. But Saturday's shooting, which left one man dead, changed the situation.

"We are now clearing the park, and it will stay cleared," Washington wrote in a 4:05 a.m. statement. "Peaceful gatherings can continue during the day, but we will not allow people to stay overnight. No tents of any kind will be allowed at any time of day."

Amy Hess, Louisville's chief of public services, said Sunday that city officials would be following the language of metro ordinance 131.01 moving forward, a regulation that prohibits the use of camping equipment on public property. City officials hadn't enforced those rules lately, she said, as "we wanted to balance the First Amendment exercise of free speech" alongside public safety. "That became out of balance. We saw a need last night to take action."

The identity of the suspected shooter has not yet been released, but police on Sunday said he is in custody at University of Louisville Hospital. Tyler Gerth, 27, was killed in the shooting.

Officers cleared the park immediately after the incident, sending protesters scattering into downtown, and Washington said a Metro Public Works team worked overnight to pack up the dozens of tents that have been set up at the park and to secure other items that had been left. Those who left belongings at the scene were told they would be able to pick up their items later Sunday at 600 Meriwether Ave.

Some possessions left at the scene, though, will not be able to be recovered. Footage that circulated early Sunday morning showed some items being thrown away, and Schroeder apologized for the way some property was handled. "It was not our intention to damage anything that was removed," Schroeder said. "However, many of the items were treated in a manner less than our standards."

Metro ordinance 131.01 was previously used in 2018 to remove Occupy ICE Louisville protesters from an ongoing downtown demonstration. Violations of that ordinance, it states, can result in fines between $50 and $200 that can be levied daily.

If protesters continue to set up tents, Schroeder said, officers will first advise them to take down the equipment and added that they could face charges under the ordinance if they do not comply.

Jefferson Square Park had been the unofficial headquarters of the protests against racism and police brutality over the course of the past month. Protesters have been at the scene every day since the rallies in Louisville began on May 28, with some bringing tents and remaining at the downtown park continuously.

Mayor Greg Fischer had said earlier in June that the tents were a part of a peaceful protest and could stay at the park as long as the situation remained safe. He said in a statement late Saturday night that it was "a tragedy that this area of peaceful protest is now a crime scene."

Protesters returned to Jefferson Square Park again on Sunday and planned a 7 p.m. vigil that evening to remember Gerth. "We will be back," Parrish-Wright said. "We're going to come back stronger, and we're not going to give up."