Speakers show the city is Milwaukee Strong
Marc Mayerhoff, a 68-year-old Bayside resident who lived in Milwaukee for 25 years, admitted “it’s out of character for me” to come to a prayer vigil. But this one, four days after a mass shooting at Milwaukee’s historic Miller Brewery, was different.
The event left the community reeling; a massacre at the complex seemed to be an assault on the very fibers of Brew City. So here Mayerhoff was Sunday evening, standing among a crowd of about 250 in front of Milwaukee City Hall. Last week, a gunman killed five coworkers before turning the gun on himself at the city’s Molson Coors campus.
“I didn’t know them; I wouldn’t have recognized them on the street, but they’re still family,” Mayerhoff said of the victims.
Religious leaders, nonprofit organizers, politicians, and Milwaukee-area residents gathered to heal in the wake of southeastern Wisconsin’s fourth mass shooting since 2012’s Sikh Temple tragedy in Oak Creek. The Molson Coors mass shooting was the 12th in the state since 2004, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tally.
“We join together tonight heartbroken,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who delivered remarks at the vigil. “…Tonight we stand together Milwaukee Strong.”
The phrase “Milwaukee Strong” has become a rallying cry for the city, much like “Boston Strong” and “New Jersey Strong” did after tragedies there. Digital billboards along Interstate 41/94, Highway 175, and Interstate 43 now bear the “Milwaukee Strong” phrase as drivers approach downtown, and local clothing company Brew City Brand created shirts with the words “Miller Strong” to donate to Molson Coors employees. (The company has not released the shirts to the public, and counterfeiters have created knockoffs. Two people were walking around the vigil selling the counterfeits.)
A Milwaukee Strong sign adorned the speakers’ podium at the vigil.
“It is very, very important that we as a community come together,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who called for support for the victims’ families and coworkers.
Barrett made note of Sunday’s weather — unseasonably warm in the 50s and sunny.
“It’s hard to imagine a beautiful, unseasonable day coupled with unspeakable tragedy,” he said. It was a stark contrast from the weather on the day of the shooting, when blustery winds drove the wind chill down and light snow blew through the Miller Valley air.
Khary Penebaker, a representative of Everytown for Gun Safety and former Democratic congressional candidate, issued a challenge to vigil attendees.
“You want to be Milwaukee Strong? Then vote for it,” he shouted to end his fiery remarks.
The vigil was hosted by 80 Percent Coalition, a part of Forward Latino.