ERICTOUREM, Staff Writer
(FinalCall.com) — Continued demonstrations, protests and organized boycotts by Blacks in Louisville, Ky., have led to more than a dozen White clergy to speak out against the spate of police killings of Black men. They have declared that Black life does matter and are urging the revamping of law enforcement practices in Louisville.
Since 1999 at least seven Black men have been shot and killed by Louisville police officers with the latest on Dec. 5, 2002, when police detectives fired 11 shots into the body of James Taylor, 50 who was handcuffed at the time.
Police maintain that Mr. Taylor attacked them with a box cutter knife. Martin Luther King III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), activist Dick Gregory, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Nation of Islam Minister Jerald Muhammad joined Black pastor Louis Coleman, executive director of the Justice Resource Center, and community activists in recent weeks to address the issue and have continued their appeal to the Justice Department to intervene.
After an appeal by a Black pastor to two White pastors who attended one of the demonstrations over the murder of Mr. Taylor, Rev. Keith Marsh, dean of Christ Church Cathedral and Rev. Polk Culpepper waged a telephone and email campaign among other White pastors and parishioners to stand in condemnation of the killings.
“As Christian leaders, we are here this morning to break the silence,” Rev. Marsh told reporters and onlookers Jan. 22, in Bishop’s Hall at the Episcopalian Cathedral in downtown Louisville. “We have a window of opportunity to start over, to begin anew, to build a city where every human life matters and is equally valued. Now is our opportune moment,” he read from a joint statement issued by the clergy.
The group also announced they intend to meet in about one week to decide how to best proceed in encouraging more clergy and White citizens to join the effort.
It’s about time, commented Rev. Coleman, who had previously stated that Whites weren’t interested because it wasn’t happening in their part of town and that Black life overall is devalued by Whites.
The pastors acknowledged the perception.
“This perception is reinforced by the overwhelming silence from most of their White neighbors; an indication to African American Louisvillians that most White citizens consider a Black life to be less valuable, less important than a White life,” the statement read. “As White Christian faith leaders, we stand before you and our community this morning, proclaiming the truth that exposes the falsehood of this perception.”
A boycott for justice against business establishments in downtown Louisville has been organized by the Black activists and clergy in similar fashion to that of the year long boycott for justice in Cincinnati, Ohio, that still continues to impact that economy. On Jan. 24, it was announced that actor/filmmaker Spike Lee has declined to appear at the University of Cincinnati in February during Black History month due to the growing concerns of police brutality and mistreatment of Blacks. The university is outside the designated downtown zone of Cincinnati and it strongly indicates that the boycott is growing beyond its original borders.
Mr. Lee joins and impressive list of actors, athletes and celebrities who have refused to come to the Ohio city, just 100 miles north of Louisville. Activists in Louisville hope that the efforts mirror similar results.
“We are taking matters into our own hands this time,” said Rev. Coleman in a previous interview with The Final Call. He said activists believe that the business community is the real power broker in Louisville, not the politicians.
The community continues its fight for a Police Civilian Review Board. A case for such a board was awarded over two years ago, but has been held up due to a lawsuit filed by the Fraternal Order of Police, claiming that such a board would be unconstitutional.
White clergyman Jim Holladay of Lyndon Baptist Church said the police need to abandon their “shoot to kill” policy and called for Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson to “rethink his resistance to civilian review.”
New police Chief Robert White still has not endorsed the idea of such a board but has stated in published reports that if it is the desire of the community for additional oversight, “we need to find a resolution.”