As homicides have surged this year in Milwaukee, so too have the shrines on streets and sidewalks that mark the spot where the killings occurred, reports the city’s Journal Sentinel. These public displays of grief take the shape of teddy bears, balloons, candles and posters. A city ordinance calls for sanitation workers to remove the memorials within 30 days, though if no one complains and a city worker hasn’t noticed, a memorial can stand for years. Sometimes when the city does remove it, the victim’s family and friends are hurt or angered.
Now, city resident Camille Mays is offering an alternative. She would like to replace the makeshift shrines with perennial plants, mulch, stones and other landscaping. A small permanent sign would mark the memorial. Mays has reached out to county and state lawmakers and is awaiting replies. Experts caution that such memorials, and attempts to alter them, can be fraught with symbolism. “This is an effort on the part of communities to give some meaning to the lives of individuals who were lost prematurely, so it’s a way of grieving,” said Melvin Delgado, a Boston University professor who has written extensively about memorial murals. “It’s not a simple act.”