One year since Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

By: - November 24, 2022 6:00 am
Image courtesy of the City of Waukesha Facebook page

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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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.