Image courtesy of the City of Waukesha
One year after the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, residents gathered to remember and pay their respects. The memories are still raw for many Waukesha residents, still haunted by the actions of then-39 year old Darrell Brooks, who was convicted of driving an SUV through the parade on Nov. 21, 2021. Six people lost their lives, and over 60 were injured or maimed.
Brooks, who was from the city of Milwaukee, was sentenced to six life terms in prison after an emotional trial. Mayor Shawn Reilly echoed the phrase “Waukesha Strong” which has become popular in the community since the tragedy. “We have been Waukesha Strong every day for the past year,” said Reilly. “We help those who need healing. We are standing with them, standing by them and praying for their recovery.”
Gov. Tony Evers also offered condolences. “Waukesha has worked to turn an unimaginable tragedy into a powerful source of hope, and love and strength. It’s been breathtaking to watch,” said Evers. “You’ve all reminded us what community really means. Through faith, through kindness and compassion, and through empathy and respect for yourself and towards each other. You’ve created a community where people are willing to show up time and time again.”
In the wake of the Waukesha tragedy, the community saw a rise in white supremacist and neo-nazi activity. The activity was fueled by still percolating theories that Brooks drove through the crowd in a targeted attack against white Wisconsinites. Waukesha is 91.8% white, 5.3% Latino and Hispanic, 4.1% Asian, and 2.0% Black. Brooks had a long history with the criminal justice system, and had been released from the Milwaukee County jail on $1,000 bail for a domestic violence case prior to the tragedy.
The tragedy became a popular attack point for the Republican party during the midterm election. Political advertisements played video of the SUV driving through the crowd alongside images of Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Johnson joined Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin to author a joint resolution acknowledging the one year anniversary of the tragedy.
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