Song And Solidarity: Hundreds Gathered For Peaceful Prayer Protest In Milwaukee Sunday
On Milwaukee’s west side Sunday, the scene was almost pastoral in Washington Park. A diverse crowd of several hundred people spread out on benches and greenspace overlooking the Washington Park bandshell for what organizers called a peaceful prayer protest.
Protests have been roiling throughout the country, including in Milwaukee, after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.
Attendees of Sunday's prayer protest were asked to wear masks and black shirts. There was singing and words of solidarity.
One white woman, dutifully attired and accompanied by her dog, chose not to share her name or impressions.
"I don’t think my voice is the one that needs to be heard right now, thank you," she says.
Zach Soderberg, who lives 5 miles west of this neighborhood, was happy to share his thoughts. Soderberg was moved and encouraged by what he described as righteous anger shared by the crowd.
“This has happened before, right? ... But I feel the response has been different this time. I feel more people are getting involved and I’m seeing less ignorant things said than I’ve seen before. I do feel the response is greater and I hope that it continues,” Soderberg says.
Tomeka Jones-Kimber came to Washington Park not knowing what to expect.
“A couple of my funky white sisters invited me out. All of our kids go to school together, they’re best friends, and they’re just basically here to support me and my family and all of the people who look like me,” Jones-Kimber says.
Top of her mind? Survival. Jones-Kimber's sons, 12 and 17, have happily attended school in Wauwatosa. But she's worried that could change.
“How will it look when my kids go back to school? Will they be targeted or cast out because they're African American? COVID has affected the African American community so devastatingly and I don’t want them to feel 'contagious' almost, and I don’t want their friends to shun them because they don’t stay in the same in the same area … we happen to stay in the 53210 area, which is very high with COVID,” Jones-Kimber says.
When her sons return to school, she prays they find positive feelings like those she felt in the crowd at Washington Park.