"Pray, then act": anti-violence rally calls for more than just thoughts and prayers

“Pray, then act“: anti-violence rally calls for more than just thoughts and prayers

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukeeans pained by incessant gun violence want people to pray, but then act.

Friday dozens of Milwaukee organizations partnered to rally for an end to gun violence.

The group is called the 80% Coalition, named after the 80% of Wisconsinites they say want to reform gun laws.

There were 20 speakers and more than 100 people in the crowd, a representative slice of Milwaukee.

They're pushing for two things: to close the background check loophole and to pass red flag laws.

Without them, they say, more children will die.

Darryl Morin of Forward Latino said, "When I went to print out the number of mass shootings that have happened in the United States, this year alone, six pages."

They gathered just steps from a playground and within earshot of children laughing.

Anneliese Dickman works for the Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence. She said, "The lives of this nation's children are being cut short. They don't have time."

A moment of silence was held for the 21 voices that won't be heard again. An educator read the names: "Eva Mireles. May God bless them, and may they rest in peace."

More than 30 organizations representing different faiths, and different sectors of the community gathered to pray.

David Simmons of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee said, "We acknowledge before you that prayer at a time like this is too often a public performance, a way to self-soothe guilty consciences, and as a cover for inaction."

He added, "Help us to move from thoughts and prayers to concrete action."

But they demanded more.

Paul Erickson is the bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He said, "We've got a lot of work to do! It took us a long time to get this messed up, it's going to take us a long time and a lot of work to heal this broken world. But we can do it."

So far this year there have been 213 mass shootings in the us in just 147 days.

Hearts are broken, but some said maybe they weren't broken enough.

Arnitta Holliman, the director of the city of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention, said, "God, we also need you to move on the hearts of the people whose hearts have not broken enough to pass sensible gun laws to protect children, to protect seniors, to protect every single person in our community."

The Islamic Society of Milwaukee's Ahmed Quereshi said, "Now we barely have time to mourn the victims of one shooting, before we are gathered and confronting a situation with new victims."

The rally honored the most recent victims in Uvalde, but also the victims from Orlando, Parkland, and Columbine, which happened 23 years ago.

Tyler Kelly with the 80% Coalition said, "I came to a recognition: the children who were murdered this week in Texas are of the age that they could have been the children of the victims of Columbine. Gun violence in schools is officially a multi-generational problem."

In the decades since, little has changed in Washington to end mass shootings.

But the thoughts and prayers continue; those gathered say it's not enough.

Rev. Mindy Welton-Mitchell of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin said, "Faith without works is dead. If we continue to offer only thoughts and prayers our faith is dead. It cannot be so."

The 80% Coalition passed out information cards at the rally. They list contact information for legislators in Washington and explain more about the background check loophole they want closed and the red flag laws they want passed.               

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