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Song And Solidarity: Hundreds Gathered For Peaceful Prayer Protest In Milwaukee Sunday

Susan Bence
People kneel in solidarity Sunday during a prayer protest at Washington Park.

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.

Credit Susan Bence
People gathered Sunday at Washington Park for song and solidarity in light of George Floyd's death.

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.

Credit Susan Bence
Zach Soderberg saw Sunday's event posted on Facebook. He and his friends decided it was something they wanted to be a part of.

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.

Credit Susan Bence
Tomeko Jones-Kimber worries what life will be like for her sons, 12 and 17, when they go back to school.

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.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.
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