Violence in Milwaukee unrest ‘a self-inflicted wound,’ says archbishop

| August 15, 2016 | 1 Comment
A gas station is seen Aug. 15 after it was burned down following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee the previous day. CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

A gas station is seen Aug. 15 after it was burned down following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee the previous day. CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee called the violence that broke out in the city as part of protests over the fatal police shooting of an African-American man “a self-inflicted wound.”

“Violence is never tolerated. Protests are certainly the right of every American, but violence such as looting, burning is never tolerated,” Archbishop Listecki told the Catholic Herald in an Aug. 15 telephone interview. “It only creates a self-inflicted wound on the community.”

Protesters burned down six businesses in the city, including a gas station, and also torched a police car late Aug. 13 in response to the police shooting of Sylville K. Smith as he fled a traffic stop earlier that day.

Police said Smith, 23, had a gun in his hand and had refused police orders to drop the weapon.

Father Timothy L. Kitzke, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s vicar general for urban ministry, told the Catholic Herald Aug. 15 that what happened Aug. 13 could be looked at one of two ways.

A gas station is seen Aug. 15 after it was burned down following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee the previous day. CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

A gas station is seen Aug. 15 after it was burned down following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee the previous day. CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters

“One the one hand it could be Armageddon; on the other hand, it could be seen as mission territory. I see it as a latter,” he said. “Now, more than ever, it is important that people from all of our parishes, including those in the suburbs, must pull together. The problems of racial divisiveness and helplessness must be addressed by everyone.”

Father Kitzke, who also is pastor of a Milwaukee parish and administrator of two others, said he has been in contact with the pastors of the four inner-city parishes asking them to meet with him to continue to address the concerns of the community.

“What do we do with the anger?” the priest said. “We need to address the issues that cause the anger and the hopelessness that lead to violence. And the church has to be a part of that.”

An Aug. 14 statement from Religious Leaders for Racial Reconciliation in Milwaukee, formed last year to address race issues in the city, said the city “was taken to another level of violence where the devil is trying to lead us.”

The group identified three issues that need to be address with the city’s dispossessed: “We need to build relationships with them, look for the root causes of what is going wrong in their lives, and then we need to empower them to change!”

“Have you ever lost your keys? Think about that feeling you had when you couldn’t find them, looking all over, and retracing your steps backwards,” the statement said. “That is how the lost are feeling, that pit in their stomach, and emptiness in their heart, the yearning for something that they don’t yet even know what it is. They are waiting for one of us to show them his love and lead them to their Savior, Jesus!”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Wisconsin’s put the National Guard on standby in case of a repeat of the violence Aug. 14, but after-dark protests were peaceful.

Contributing to this story was Maryangela Layman Roman.

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  • Charles C.

    “Violence is never tolerated?” Sorry, Archbishop, of course it is tolerated, or at least accepted as the new normal. There are violent “protests” occurring every month in some US city with injuries or property damage. Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, Baton Rouge, Ferguson, Baltimore, and more. Physical assaults at colleges like Dartmouth, ambushes and shootings of officers.

    So, why is this happening? A Milwaukee resident will tell you:

    Orlandis Jackson, 24, was interviewed by local television at the scene of the rioting.

    “Because, you know, this what happen because they not helping the Black community like, you know, the rich people they got all this money, and they not, like, you know, trying to give us none. It’s, it’s, it’s sad (sick?). It’s like, you know, and police, it’s just, it’s crazy, it’s just.”

    “[Alderman Khalif Rainey] said Milwaukee is “the absolute worst place in America for African-Americans to live in the entire country.”

    “He said black people are “tired of living under this oppression” and while he said he didn’t justify the violence itself, “nobody can deny that there are racial problems here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that have to be rectified.”

    “Rainey even seemed to threaten more violence.

    ““This is the warning cry,” he said of the rioters burning their community to the ground and shooting at firefighters who tried to put out a gas station fire.

    ““Where do we go from here?” he asked. “Where do we go as a community from here? Do we continue with the inequity, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? Do we continue that?”

    “He demanded that the black people’s grievances be rectified immediately.”

    Well, Milwaukee is 40% Black, and six of the city’s fifteen aldermen are Black. Additionally, one is Hispanic. Are all the policy votes 8 Whites versus 7 “People of Color?” Four of the nine members of the Milwaukee School Board are Black, including the Board President, and there are only two White males on the Board. So, who is doing the oppressing? (Remember, the officer who shot the armed Black man is an armed Black man.) Yet the rioters were calling for the burning of White businesses and the beating of passing Whites, including reporters and cameramen.

    As the sister of the man who was shot (Sherelle Smith) wrote:

    “Burning down sh*t ain’t gonna help nothin’. You’re burnin’ down sh*t we need in our community. Take that sh*t to the suburbs. Burn that sh*t down! We need our sh*t! We need our weave! I don’t wear it, but we need it!”

    But perhaps we should listen to the Milwaukee Chief of Police:

    “Flynn cast blame on some Chicago-based activists representing the Revolutionary Communist Party, who apparently organized young people to take to the streets and march on the then-barricaded District 7 police station, which received a number of threats.

    “The (group) showed up, and actually they’re the ones who started to cause problems leading into evening by marching and trying to take over Sherman and Burleigh,” Flynn said. “That was about 11:30 at night. We made it to 11:30 in the
    evening, and we had these characters show up …”

    Pray, certainly, but also try to understand the problem. It doesn’t appear that we do yet.