Archbishop prays for hearts to change

People protesting police violence against African Americans gathered in downtown Louisville for a second night of protests May 29. Local leaders, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, have urged protesters to be peaceful after protests May 28 turned violent overnight. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

With about 16,000 viewers watching on Facebook live June 1, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz prayed that God “will give us the grace to change hearts,” and offered his support of peaceful protests that seek justice and condemn racism.

His message was part of an interfaith day of reflection organized online by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer as Louisville entered its fifth straight day of protests. Waves of demonstrations — driven by the mounting deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement — have washed over all 50 states.

In his message for the day of reflection, the archbishop said the sin of racism must be condemned within each person.

“We need to condemn it with our heart and with our actions,” he said. “The dignity of every person is the responsibility of each one of us. The unity and fabric of our community, we cannot give up on. We know that it’s sometimes painful, but it’s a process that requires each of us to seek what it means to do our part.”

He noted that in March of each year, the Archdiocese of Louisville honors black Catholic leaders and among the honorees are about a dozen young people who receive scholarships.

“Every year we have honored young people and they have gotten up and spoken about the gift of their faith, their family and especially their future,” he noted. “We need to stand behind them and find a way to give each … a future and especially to remove racism from that block that exists right now, a block that is sadly in our hearts.”

The archbishop has had a unique view of the Louisville protests. His residence at the Cathedral of the Assumption on South Fifth Street is just a couple of blocks removed from the epicenter at Sixth and Jefferson Streets.

Three windows of the rectory were broken around midnight on the second day of protests, March 29, along with other area windows. As a precaution, the windows and doors of the Cathedral facing Fifth Street were boarded with plywood on May 30, as were many of the businesses in the downtown area. That day, Mayor Fischer introduced a dusk to dawn curfew that will be in place until at least June 8.

The protests each day have begun peacefully, with hundreds carrying signs and chanting slogans, such as, “No justice, no peace.” The demonstrations move in waves from parts of downtown, into the Highlands and down Broadway into West Louisville.

As evening falls, tensions tighten, police in riot gear and Kentucky National Guards fire tear gas, pepper balls and flash bangs into the crowds.

Some protesters have shattered windows, spray painted slogans on buildings and some people have looted area stores.

Multiple individuals have been injured by gunfire — some shots have been fired from within the crowd, causing injuries on May 28,  and, on May 30, law enforcement shot and killed David McAtee, a local restaurant owner.

These incidents are under investigation. The mayor has relieved LMPD Chief Steve Conrad of his duty over the McAtee shooting after learning the required police body cameras were not in use during the shooting.

The protests nationwide were sparked by the deaths of Louisville emergency medical worker Breonna Taylor and George Floyd of Minneapolis.

A police officer in Minneapolis has been charged with third-degree murder after being captured on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a forgery suspect, on Memorial Day.

Breonna Taylor, 26, was killed March 13 when Louisville Metro Police officers entered her home in plain clothes on a “no-knock warrant,” meaning they could enter her home without knocking. The FBI is investigating her shooting death.

In response to protests, Mayor Fischer announced he will temporarily suspend no-knock warrants.

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