Windows of the Cathedral of the Assumption and its offices facing South Fifth Street in downtown Louisville were covered with plywood as a precaution May 30 after a second day of peaceful protests turned to violence and vandalism overnight.
Protestors broke three windows in the Cathedral rectory — where Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and Father Michael Wimsatt reside — at about midnight during a May 29 demonstration that began peacefully that afternoon. Those windows were also covered with plywood.
In a May 29 letter to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, 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. 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.
During the May 28 protest, 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 properties were broken, according to local news reports.
As protests resumed the afternoon of May 29, local leaders were calling for them to remain peaceful. Late that night and into the early hours of the morning, police in riot gear fogged protesters with tear gas and demonstrators shattered windows of downtown buildings — including the Cathedral’s rectory — and looted area stores. Six protesters were arrested and six officers were injured, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department.
The protests 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 murder after being captured on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a forgery suspect, on Memorial Day. Floyd 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.
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 investigating.
In response to protests, Mayor Fischer announced he will temporarily suspend no-knock warrants. The Metro Louisville chief of police has also announced his retirement in the wake of the Breonna Taylor shooting.
On May 30, the mayor called for a curfew in Jefferson County from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. He also has called in the Kentucky National Guard.
In consultation with the mayor’s office, the Cathedral of the Assumption has canceled the Saturday evening Mass today, May 30, said Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“Archbishop visited the downtown area this morning. He and the pastor of the Cathedral, Father Michael, spoke and assessed the damage done to the residence,” he said. “Now the priority is to ensure people are safe. The best way is to ensure people aren’t downtown during the curfew.”
Reynolds said he has been in touch with pastors in affected neighborhoods and noted, “Churches are considering the best ways to respond to the pastoral needs of their communities.”
He added that the archbishop’s May 29 message to the mayor remains unchanged:
“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.”
“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.”
The letter concluded, “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.”