After the violence, calls for unity. In Kenosha, the scene of a new blunder against a black man and then deadly riots, dozens of amateur or professional painters have taken over the walls of the city center, drawing messages advocating reconciliation in the hope of helping to heal this small American town.
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“Believe that there is good in the world”, “Do small things with great love”: graffiti has come to brighten up the plywood installed on the facades of most stores to protect them from violence.
The neighborhood is only a few hundred meters from the epicenter of the tensions, caused by a smash against Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father who was hit by several bullets in the back fired at close range by a white police officer, Rusten Sheskey, who was trying to stop him.
The anger quickly spread and turned into nightly clashes between protesters and police. Tension peaked when a 17-year-old teenager fired under unclear circumstances at three protesters, killing two on Tuesday evening.
It is the Kenosha Creative Center that coordinates individual initiatives and supplies paint and brushes, says Pamela Thomey, one of the managers.
“The watchword is: + the answer is love +. We don’t want political slogans because they fuel division, ”she explains.
“We want to keep a positive spirit, it helps the city heal,” she says.
Dirk Ingram chose to paint a white angel surrounded by two multicolored wings on the front of his massage parlor. Beside, also multicolored butterflies.
“On Sunday we received horrific images and then we saw burnt businesses. I wanted to show a more heartwarming image, ”he says, spray paint in hand.
He salutes the solidarity of the population. “The people came by themselves, as they had come with brooms to clean the streets after the first riots”, underlines the masseur.
A street further, Carey Fonk, 50, puts the finishing touches with her teenage daughter to her work: the message “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” surrounded by red hearts.
This Kenosha mother says she has experienced a rise in general tension in the city since the start of the coronavirus epidemic.
“The pandemic, the quarantine, the destruction of the economy, the growing angst,” she says.
Robinz, an artist from Dallas, Texas, works on a painting that takes up the entire surface of a wooden plaque, made in bright colors.
“I feel connected” to the plight of the residents, “we all do something different, but it’s community work,” he says.
Tamara Vollmer, who lives fifteen minutes from the town where she was born, wants to “bring color back to the city”.
“This is the first step towards healing, but the road will be long,” she warns.