Madison group plans vigil on Friday for George Floyd

MAST MEMBERS posted the above artwork that memorialized the late George Floyd with the announcement that they would hold a vigil for Floyd at 6 p.m. Friday near Trojan Field on the Dakota State University campus. The artwork was created by Shirien Damra, a Chicago resident.

A Madison community group dedicated to encouraging positive change within American culture has scheduled a vigil to remember and honor George Floyd at 6 p.m. Friday on the north side of the Dakota State University campus

Members of MAST, or Madison Area Stands Together, have invited the public to attend the vigil for Floyd on the athletic practice field east of Trojan Field.

MAST organizers want to recognize Floyd's life and "...call attention to the immense pain and anger those in the black community are feeling."

Many communities across the nation and around the world have seen demonstrations and protests -- some violent -- since Floyd's death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day while he was placed under arrest by police officers.

According to Vaughan Hennen, a MAST member, the vigil is not meant to serve as a protest or demonstration. Hennen asks that vigil participants join the gathering to reflect on the violence associated with Floyd's arrest and work for change in society.

Hennen, as DSU assistant librarian, said MAST has worked with the Madison Police Department to hold the vigil, and the gathering is not intended as an anti-police protest. The organizers have asked on their Facebook announcement that if any person sees or learns of anyone who wants change the nature of the vigil, they should contact organizers about any plans for misbehavior or violence.

Chief Justin Meyer of the Madison Police Department said his officers were informed about the plans for the vigil and the department "...is not expecting any issues to come out of the gathering."

MAST organizers are planning a 30-minute gathering that will include words of hope, a moment of silence, a nondenominational prayer and time to hold space and reflect. Hennen said organizers will ask participants to join a period for meditation, reflection and prayer. They can also join a period of silence timed at 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time that a police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck during his arrest. The organizers will also ask those persons at the gathering to reflect on other actions that negatively affected communities of black or brown racial groups.

Kristina Adams, a MAST member and DSU speech instructor, created a painting to memorialize Floyd and will display it at the gathering. Adams plans to ask vigil attendees to sign the artwork. She wants to ship the painting to the Floyd family.

MAST has stayed active in Madison during the last several years, encouraging community members to hold discussions and support positive change that includes respect, compassion and justice.

"We know that this gathering is something that a small town wouldn't normally do, but we want to encourage discussion about how some things in our society do need to change," Hennen said.

The MAST organizers are asking those persons who are planning to attend to leave a comment at their event post on the DSU Facebook page. The organizers want to keep track of attendance. They also ask attendees to social distance and wear a face mask due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If vigil participants do not have a face mask at the vigil site, they can let organizers know so they can provide a face mask.