WASHINGTON — It was a moment of tension, two days after teargas canisters scattered peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square.
Kenny Sway decided his voice would be needed on 16th Street, after violent clashes cleared demonstrators from the area around the White House.
“You know, I saw the teargas, I saw the rioting, I saw the looting, I saw everything,” Sway said. “And I had to think to myself, ‘yo! What are they missing?’ And music was the very thing they were missing.”
Sway’s June 3 rendition of “Lean on Me” went viral, a backdrop of St. John’s Church adding to the poignancy of the moment as protesters watched from around the world.
“To me, it felt, it felt, breathtaking,” Sway offered, as he remembered the shouting diminishing and cell phones rising to record the performance. “Music is the heart. And music is the heartbeat of these protests.”
Sway returned to Lafayette Square Monday, determined to continue singing as protesters reclaimed the park.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Sway said of the movement to combat police brutality. “I think we still need to go out and march, march, march and protest as much as possible.”
Sway returned to “Lean on Me” for the several hundred protesters who gathered two weeks after the clashes, adding in Marvin Gaye and John Mayer as the demonstrations continued.
“We need to meet this effort as one, and that’s what music does for us,” Sway said. “It’s universal, it doesn’t have a color. We all move to it, and it can help move us forward in this moment.”