LAWRENCE — The young woman who organized Sunday's peace walk said she was "disgusted" by Mayor William Lantigua's "challenging" demeanor outside City Hall. However, Sasha Capo said Lantigua's actions underscore a major city problem — a disconnect between local government and the citizens it serves.
"The potential for things to turn ugly was definitely there. ... It's testament to how dire the situation is," said Capo, 20, a Lawrence native who attends Northeastern University.
More than 2,000 people attended Sunday's Walk for Peace, organized following five murders within two weeks in Lawrence. As the walk ended at City Hall, some walkers shouted at a waiting Lantigua, asking him what he was going to do about the uptick in crime. In response to walkers Rafaelli Rosado and Domingo Melendez, Lantigua did not speak, but repeatedly gestured toward his own feet and the ground in front of him which was caught on video by The Eagle-Tribune. Rosado said she believed Lantigua was telling her to kiss his feet. Lantigua did not respond for comment.
State Rep. Marcos Devers (D-Lawrence), who was standing to Lantigua's right in the video, put his arm on the mayor. "I was just trying to calm him down and avoid any interaction," Devers explained yesterday. "I tried to keep everyone safe, quiet and calm."
Capo said she did not witness the incident but watched The Eagle-Tribune's video that captured the interaction between the mayor and Rosado and Melendez.
"He was challenging them," she said of Lantigua.
The crowd was eventually moved to the side of City Hall where the parking lot is located. Holding a microphone, Capo stood above the crowd and asked those who wanted peace to start clapping.
As she continued speaking to the group, Capo said one of the first people she saw was Lantigua, who was now standing at the edge of the parking lot, listening to her.
"He was very attentive. ... I thought, 'That's a step,'" she said.
Capo said the walk was a "non-political event" and that no elected officials were asked to speak Sunday. Devers said Lantigua "was willing to speak if he was allowed, but nobody told him anything."
In front of City Hall, Lantigua "by order of the mayor" asked that every police cruiser in the city respond to City Hall. No arrests were made. Police Sgt. Steve Scheffen stood by until the crowd dispersed.
Capo said she was thrilled that 2,000 people turned out for the walk. The two-mile walk started at 15 Maginnis Ave., where Milka Rivera, 39, and her two teen-aged children were murdered on Labor Day, and ended at City Hall, 200 Common St.
"It was the best day of my life so far," she said. "People expressed themselves. Some cried and some chose to yell at the mayor. Kids made cool signs and there was great variation of ages."
A funeral Mass was held yesterday morning for Rivera, her daughter Sachary Montanez, 19, and son Max Ariel Montanez, 16, at Holy Rosary Church. All three were buried at St. Mary's Cemetery.
Rivera's longtime boyfriend, Jose Luis Tejada, 39, has been charged with three counts of murder and remains held without bail.
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