An Open Letter from Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell Regarding Violence and Discrimination in Our Community
At June 10 event celebrating 25 years of the Fairness Campaign. Left to right: Center for Women and Families CEO Marta Miranda, Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, assistant county attorney Eric Graninger, former Legal Aid Society chief Jeff Been.
An open letter to colleagues in the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office and members of our community:
Like many of you, I have been following the aftermath of this weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando. While I did not personally know the 49 killed, I understand the grief of their surviving family members and friends. My prayers are with those injured - some still fighting for the lives - and with those who lived through this tragedy but will likely never forget the horror they witnessed inside the Pulse nightclub. I also commend the brave actions of law enforcement on the scene that clearly saved lives.
That such quick and senseless loss of life is possible in our country is troubling, to say the least. Louisville, along with much of the nation, is struggling with choking gun violence. But when killers target such violence on a specific segment of people - whether at a gay nightclub in Florida, an African-American church in South Carolina or elsewhere - it is even more heinous and goes against the basic principles on which our country should stand.
The laughter and fellowship I shared Friday night at our local Fairness Campaign’s 25th anniversary turned to dismay and heartbreak by Sunday afternoon. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens have been under repeated attacks, both to their civil rights and, now, to their actual lives. We should stand with the LGBTQ community during this difficult time, just as we should stand against any instance of terror or hate directed to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
We are past the time for words. Current events compel us to act. I pledge to use my personal resources and those available to this office to combat violence and discrimination. I pledge to be an advocate for those who feel unsafe or threatened in our community, whether it’s a local victim in the grips of domestic violence or students and staff at the University of Louisville who work in the shadow of a Confederate monument that signifies division and hate for so many. I plan to march in Friday’s Kentuckiana Pride Parade as an ally of the LGBTQ community. There is information below if you are interested in showing your support at Friday’s parade as well.
Our office’s role in crimes involving violence or discrimination against others is not new. What is new is our rededication to combatting the effects of this unacceptable behavior. There are no specific new policies to share today but know that they are coming. I look forward to bringing staff and outside partners together for a serious look at these issues. I ask that you contact me if you have ideas or suggestions on how we might better bring about change.
For those in the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, please know that the work you do is important and valued. Your actions have a positive impact on our community. Together, we must do more to protect our neighbors here at home, especially when the nation’s Congress is so reluctant to do so. If our efforts bring even the smallest measure of good then we will have served Jefferson County well. Thank you for your service.
Jefferson County Attorney