Milwaukee archbishop visits Kenosha, prays for peace
Milwaukee’s archbishop prayed for peace in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Thursday morning, after four nights of protests and riots following the shooting of a Black man by police on Sunday. Two people have been killed and another was wounded seriously by a gunman participating in the unrest.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee offered Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish on Thursday morning, joined by the archdiocesan vicars general and priests of Kenosha’s Catholic parishes, the archdiocese announced in a Facebook post on Thursday.
The archbishop held a press conference outside St. Mark’s Church, announcing a plan to visit sites in Kenosha damaged by riots and deadly violence this week.
“I speak for the pastors when I say immediately how hurtful it is that something like this, a wound, should appear in the community,” Listecki said of the unrest this past week. “Also it’s a time when the church should be there to help the healing.”
“In prayer, we place the whole people of Kenosha, the community of Kenosha, before God.”
Video of Sunday’s shooting showed Blake walking away from several police officers, around the front of a car toward the driver’s side door, while officers followed him and shouted at him with guns drawn. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), the officers had used a taser on Blake before he walked away from them.
As Blake opened the driver’s side car door and leaned inside, Officer Sheskey grabbed him from behind and fired his gun seven times at Blake.
After the shooting, Blake was taken to a Milwaukee-area hospital, and his family’s lawyer said on Tuesday that he is paralyzed from the waist down.
Protests and riots ensued in Kenosha, with businesses being vandalized, looted, and burned, and police deploying tear gas against rioters. St. James Parish in downtown Kenosha was vandalized on Monday evening, but suffered no serious damage.
On Thursday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul admonished “the heavily armed vigilantes, arsonists, and other opportunists who have come to Kenosha to attempt to spur chaos.”
“Kenosha residents deserve the opportunity to grieve, come together, peacefully protest, call for change, and heal,” he said.
On Tuesday night, during the unrest in downtown Kenosha, two people were killed and a third injured by a white gunman later identified as 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who traveled to Kenosha from Illinois to allegedly assist police officers amid the unrest. Armed groups were reported to be standing outside businesses on guard against rioters. Local police did not request that assistance, and officers reportedly ordered a group of gunmen to get off the top of an area gas station, although their order was not obeyed.
Rittenhouse had told the Daily Caller earlier that evening, while standing outside a boarded-up building, that “people are getting injured and our job is to protect this business,” and that he was in Kenosha to “help people” but was also armed to “protect myself.”
Video showed a man alleged to be Rittenhouse running down a street with a rifle while being pursued by several people shouting that he had already shot someone; he fell, turned around, and fired the rifle several times at his pursuers. Rittenhouse was arrested on Wednesday in Illinois and charged with first-degree intentional homicide.
Archbishop Listecki prayed for peace on Thursday morning, emphasizing that prayer must be the first response to the unrest.
“We’re praying, obviously for people to open up their hearts,” he said, to find a “peaceful way, and not a violent way” to resolve conflict.
“God is the one who changes the hearts and the minds of people,” he said.
When asked by reporters if he had a response to the cause of the protests, Sunday’s police shooting, Listecki said that “we have to take a step back” and wait for “all the facts” of the incident to surface.
“You don’t want any type of issue to be co-opted,” he said, noting that “outsiders” have tried to co-opt such incidents. “You hold up the video, nobody’s seeing the outside. Nobody’s seeing what’s going on,” he said of the video of the shooting of Blake, noting that it’s “just one eye that’s taking in everything.”
According to press releases from the Kenosha Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, officers on Sunday had responded to a domestic incident at the site of Blake’s shooting; a woman had called police, reporting that her boyfriend, reportedly Blake, was present without her consent.
The Wisconsin DOJ is leading the investigation into the shooting with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which has launched a civil rights probe into the incident. The Wisconsin DOJ said that Blake told officers on the scene that he had a knife in his possession, and that agents removed a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the car.