DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dozens of people gathered in Daytona Beach Saturday morning to participate in an event with the goal of bringing the community together following the shooting of police Officer Jason Raynor.
Willie Williams and Brooks Tomblin started off as strangers, but now they’re the best of friends. The two organized the “CommUNITY Picnic” at the City Island Complex Saturday morning.
Several members from the community gathered under a tent. They danced, played games, and enjoyed a meal together. Williams said they all have one goal.
“We’ve come together. We’ve come out to say, ‘You know what unites us is so much better than what divides us,’” Williams said.
The grassroots effort comes after Raynor was shot. Both said they could see the shooting potentially causing division in the community.
“I think today there are so many things that are trying to separate our communities. To have an event to bring everybody together, get to know one another, I just cannot see where that would hurt a community one bit,” Tomblin said.
They created this safe space for everyone together. The group linked arms in prayers and started having real conversations.
Diego Bressler and his family participated in the picnic.
“Why don’t we do something different? Why don’t we just create a platform for us to get together instead of us being divided?” Diego Bressler said.
He said this was an opportunity for his son, Samuel, to learn from others who are different from him and to love all.
“Just being there and listen to them is a way of showing that you care about them and way of showing love,” Samuel Bressler said.
Tracey Sloss and Chantelle Bravo met at the picnic. They said they’re grateful for the chance to connect with people from different backgrounds.
“It’s all about coming together as a community, as one race, the human race,” Bravo said.
Sloss adds this is how Daytona Beach responds in the face of tragedy.
“We should be able to encourage and support each other more, including our neighbors, our friends, our strangers, no matter what color you are,” Sloss said.
Organizers said they’re planning future events, including a walk and town hall.