MERIDEN — The location was different. But the purpose of the gathering was exactly the same as the one two weeks before — to protest recent gun violence.
Late Saturday morning some three dozen community members, including local clergy, elected officials, law enforcement leaders and others, assembled in the parking lot of City Park. It’s an area surrounded by multi-family homes, with churches of different denominations at different street corners, a playground, basketball court and a few small variety stores and bakeries in between.
Many of those in attendance wore black T-shirts with a screen printed design that read “Stop the violence… in Meriden.”
The neighborhood has experienced gun violence — including incidents on Center Street and Sherman Avenue, places those in attendance would later make stops, holding handmade signs, honking car horns and chanting messages of peace.
City Councilor Sonya Jelks, the event’s organizer, wore a facemask with the words “Good Trouble” — an homage to the late Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis. She and others spoke through megaphones.
“We might be small, but we’re mighty,” Jelks said. “We’re going to let our neighbors know we’re here for them and hopefully the next time they will be here with us, doing the same work because we know it’s important.
“...We’ve gotta make sure we continue to get the message out there that any type of violence in our community is unacceptable,” Jelks added. “That’s not Meriden. That’s not our community. That’s not the community we want our children to be raised in.”
Lorraine Winston, a lifelong city resident, said the rally had personal significance for her. Back in 1997, her then-fiance, who is also the father of two now grown men, was gunned down on nearby Britannia Street.
“They took away someone’s son, brother, cousin, my kids’ father. They never knew who he was,” she said. “Even back then the gun violence wasn’t what it is now.
“This is a good city. I was born and raised here,” she added.
“This is not the Meriden I grew up in,” said State Sen. Mary Abrams, whose district includes the city. “And it should not be the Meriden that our children are growing up in now. And we are one city. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood this is happening in — it’s happening to all of us.”
Abrams, who said she is proud of how police have responded to recent violence, said her goals are to end violence and “make sure that everyone feels safe.”
Police Chief Roberto Rosado was among the rally’s attendees. He described education and encouragement as crucial to law enforcement’s efforts to curb violence.
Local clergy led prayers as attendees bowed their heads.
Rev. Willie Young, pastor of nearby Mount Hebron Baptist Church, prayed for an end to gun violence.
“We will make ourselves visible in our community... the violence must stop,” Young said.
Rev. Joshua Mosher, pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Church, noted the neighborhood is his church’s home too.
“And we care very deeply about this neighborhood, this city and its welfare,” Mosher said. “Every time that we gather to pray, we pray for peace.”
City Councilor Michael Rohde described the area around City Park as a “critical neighborhood.”
“And it’s important for us to show that we’re serious about anti-violence and to let people know we’re here for the community,” Rohde said.