Archbishop’s letter to the mayor offers support for peace and justice

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)

In a letter to Mayor Greg Fischer May 29, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz expressed his support of peaceful protests “that give voice to the pain of the community and to the desire for truth and justice to be served.”

He also said he lamented the “senseless violence” that developed overnight after peaceful protests had drawn hundreds to downtown Louisville May 28.

Louisville protesters joined demonstrators in major cities around the country demanding justice for victims of police violence and racism May 28 and 29. Last night they chanted “No justice, no peace” as they made their way through the streets of the downtown area, stopping periodically to chant and block intersections.

Eight-year-old Elizabeth Childress led a chant saying “No justice, no peace!” during a peaceful afternoon protest May 29 in downtown Louisville. She held a sign calling for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was killed while out for a jog by two white men. They were arrested months after the attack after video of the killing went viral. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

In the early hours of May 29, shots were fired by a person or persons in the crowd and seven people were wounded, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department. And three protesters were arrested after windows in Metro Corrections property were broken, according to local news reports.

As protests resumed the afternoon of May 29, local leaders were calling for them to remain peaceful.

“Our fellow citizens are suffering and distraught and everyone is on edge due to many factors that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 virus,” Archbishop Kurtz said in his letter to the mayor. “The hope promised by our faith is that the crosses we bear can have a transformative effect as we seek, with God’s grace, to build a better future for all.”

At about 5:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, 100 or so protestors chanting “No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe,” were peacefully blocking the intersection of Sixth and Jefferson streets.

Soon after, protestors lay down on the ground to re-enact an arrest, reminiscent of the latest police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, one of two recent deaths that sparked the protests.

George Floyd, suspected of forgery, was killed by a police officer on Memorial Day and the tragedy was captured on video. He was pinned to the ground as the officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes. Floyd struggles to say, “I can’t breathe,” repeatedly and eventually appears to lose consciousness or die. He was declared dead at a hospital afterward.

The other death hits closer to home for Louisville protesters. Emergency medical worker Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot to death March 13 by Louisville Metro Police when officers entered her home in plain clothes on a “no-knock warrant,” meaning they could enter her home without identifying themselves or knocking.

Thinking they were being robbed, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the officers, the Associated Press reported. Taylor was shot eight times. The FBI is now investigating.

In response to protestors, Mayor Fischer announced May 29 that he would temporarily suspend no-knock warrants. The Metro Louisville chief of police has also announced his retirement in the wake of the Breonna Taylor shooting.

In his letter, the archbishop told the mayor that he stands with him.

“I know of your commitment to both justice and peace and of your promotion of a compassionate community that does not tolerate racism in any form. I stand with you as we all work to build a better Louisville in which all citizens thrive and in which there is a shared commitment to the common good.”

He concluded by pledging the prayers of local Catholics.

“I can only imagine the personal toll on you as you have sought to lead well during these difficult days,” he writes. “I can assure you that the parishes and faithful of the archdiocese will be praying for you and for a peaceful and just resolution to this situation.”

Marnie McAllister
Written By
Marnie McAllister
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