By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s now a call for healing after so many deadly shootings in the Twin Cities.

Six were killed in St. Paul in just two weeks, and another man was shot to death in Minneapolis on Saturday. A show of unity with the message “Guns Down, Love Up” was clear at an event Saturday at Bethune Park.

Families from both Minneapolis and St. Paul were mingling with Minneapolis first responders, having fun — a distraction from the recent gun violence in the area, including a shooting that killed a man in his 30s in north Minneapolis early Saturday morning.

“It’s important to bring the community together to do some healing,” visitor Satara Strong said.

At the first ever “Guns Down, Love Up” event, organizers set up free healing services for gun violence survivors — including pastoral counseling, mental health therapy and massages.

“There’s not a lot of systems in place to make sure that we as a community have resources and access to space for healing,” Strong said. “We need to have it.”

“A lot of times people suffer from trauma and they don’t really address it,” organizer Kendra Pierson said.

Pierson organized the event. She was called to do something after she experienced the pain of losing her brother, Tyrone Williams, to gun violence in April last year.

“We’ve also realized that we’ve done a lot of help and healing with our services. We wanted to bring those services to the entire community,” she said.

Kids are survivors of gun violence too, so there was a creative space for kids to use art to heal. It was art that also brought kids and adults together.

“She looked every interested and I said, ‘Well, grab a paint brush and join me.’ Yeah, she’s doing a pretty good job,” local artist Flahn Manly said as he gave free reign to kids to contribute to his mural at the event.

“I’m happy because other painters don’t let us do that sometimes,” a young painter said.

Organizers plan to do this event every year, but their efforts to end gun violence will happen every day.

“Guns Down, Love Up” is campaign that started back in January to make policy changes to lower the number of lives lost to gun violence. Minneapolis police partnered with the campaign.

Marielle Mohs

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