Standing on the City’s old Armory site with about 60 other people at 2 p.m., I couldn’t help thinking that Armory Park was being put to use for another kind of conflict, even war in the broadest sense—a war against violence like the war against poverty championed by Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we’ll be remembering and honoring in two weeks.
Taya Dixon Mullane of the Lower Highlands Neighborhood Group called everyone into a loose circle and said a few words, offering condolences to the families of Corinna Ouer, the young woman who was killed yesterday on Grand Street, and the other young people who were shot and wounded. Captain Kevin Sullivan, commander of the district’s police activities, spoke about the senselessness of the shootings and the daily efforts of city police to keep the peace. He praised the neighborhood leaders and encouraged everyone to increase their involvement in neighborhood issues. He commented on the diversity of the group, people from all backgrounds and heritages, a good sign for the city.
Mayor Jim Milinazzo expressed sympathy to the families and friends of the victims on behalf of residents of Lowell and his colleagues on the City Council, including Patrick Murphy who was on hand. Greg Croteau of the United Teen Equality Center spoke briefly about UTEC’s commitment to prevent violence and engage the youth in the city in positive ways. Walter and Marianne from Gallery 119 at the corner of Chelmsford Street and Grand stood up with their neighbors. I saw other familiar faces in the crowd.
The LHNG distributed long strips of wide purple ribbon for people to tie to utility poles and street posts up and down Grand Street, a symbol of respect and remembrance for the victims. A police car with whirling blue lights crawled ahead of the loose procession and stopped in front of the house where the shots had been fired. Several of the young people who knew the victims walked up the front steps of the white duplex and tied ribbons on the iron railings on both sides of the stairs. A young man wearing a white dust mask covering his nose and mouth kept up his work, carrying plastic bags of refuse out of the basement of the house. People watched from the porches and windows of houses up and down the street. When we passed the Bethel AME Church everyone heard the live music inside. Somebody was playing drums. A light rain fell on the procession, adding to the grim, gray mood overall.