Supporters of “Black Lives Matter” protest as they commemorate Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday on June 5, 2020. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Kentucky Primary Results: Since World War II, when the federal government selected the city to meet an increased demand for rubber, the chemical plants that make up the Louisville neighborhood known as Rubbertown had been around.

Now, almost 80 years later, as Louisville was rocked by daily protests about “Black Lives Matter,” Black leaders and activists remember the decades-long struggle for environmental justice in the city. With Louisville ‘s history of segregation and smokestack pollution, the rallying cry of “I can’t breathe” from the demonstrators — George Floyd’s last words before his death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May — have long resonated here among Rubbertown residents strangling on contaminated air.

Kentucky Primary Results: In response to calls for environmental justice, in 2005 Louisville adopted a landmark toxic air reduction program which dramatically reduced air pollution. But some quarters are still suffering from dirty air and shorter lifespans.

Environmental justice emerged in Kentucky this spring following the death of Floyd and that of Breonna Taylor, killed by Louisville police in March, as State Rep. Charles Booker made a late push against front runner and former fighter pilot Amy McGrath in Democratic primary on Tuesday. In November, the winner challenges Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Booker, 35, grew up in the shadow of the Rubbertown smokestacks, and became part of his campaign for environmental justice along with support for the Green New Deal and other progressive causes.

“Communities that were most disadvantaged and affected need to be in a decision-making role to lead the way forward,” Booker said. “I’m encouraged, as painful as this moment is. Holistically, we need to look at that.”

Kentucky Primary Results: InsideClimate News Southeast Writer James Bruggers wrote this week about how the long search for environmental justice in Louisville still animates the politics of that city — and played a role in the Kentucky primary.

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