Hundreds in La Crosse gather, use love to end violence

Healing and rebuilding, those were the two themes behind a big rally in La Crosse Wednesday night.

Following the shooting death of 17-year-old George Miller last month, community leaders felt it was time to rally the community to try to put an end to the violence.

“Alright everybody, say ‘Love’,” La Crosse resident Shaundel Spivey shouts to the crowd.

It was the one word said over and over.

“Love! Come on 1, 2, 3, love,” singer Mario Street echoes.

A four-letter word La Crosse residents hope to surround themselves with, in their effort to end violence in their city.

“If we don’t take action with love, we’re not going to stop the violence,” La Crosse resident Shirley said.

Powell Park was filled with love Wednesday night. Hundreds listened and talked about ways to replace the ‘Old Story’ of fear citizens have recently been feeling with a ‘New Story’ of togetherness and compassion.

“Sometimes change is very difficult but when you grasp it and take it by the seat of its pants, it’s a good thing,” District 12 City Council Member Francis Formanek said.

Several speakers said that change needs to start with the adults and parents.

“It starts at home with our kids. What are we teaching our kids? What kind of examples are we being,” said Billy Watson Jr., a La Crosse resident.

“The adults are here tonight to tell you, the children, that we see you and we will keep this community safe for you to make your dream come true,” former La Crosse School District teacher Geri Wettstein said.

Several speakers stressed the importance of knowing your neighbor.

“I don’t want our children to be afraid of who their neighbors are,” Shirley said.

“Let’s check up on each other,” Watson Jr. said.

Now that the community has spoken comes the difficult task of making a change, but city and community leaders seem confident that love will prevail and the La Crosse community can make a difference.

“Let’s start being active with each other, let’s get together like this more often, let’s do more of this,” Watson Jr. said.

“It’s never going to be over until we as a community stop it,” Sheldon Williams said.

“Let’s do it now, let’s start making a difference now,” Watson Jr. said.

There was also a moment of silence to honor Miller.