This Saturday marks the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. In Eugene, community members will hold a remembrance vigil and peace rally for issues impacting youth.
The names and biographies of 20 children and six staff members who were murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting will be read during the vigil.
The event will be held by Peace For Our Children, a group founded by Pastor Fred Lydum with Asbury United Methodist Church, and Jan Osoinach Smith. Smith said it is important to remind the public of these incidences so we don’t see more victims.
“We see incidences of gun violence almost on a daily basis in our country,” said Smith. “And people say, ‘Oh, we're so sad. We're sending you our prayers. We're so sorry for your loss.’ But nothing is changed to prevent further acts of violence.”
The vigil will also honor the following victims and survivors of recent acts of violence in Oregon.
Five Violent Incidences of Oregon in Recent History:
- In 1998, a shooter killed his parents, two students, and wounded 25 students at Thurston High School in Springfield.
- In 2007, 10 students were wounded at Springwater Trail High School in Gresham.
- In 2012, Cindy Yule (54) and Stephen Forsyth (45) were killed at the Clackamas Center mall.
- In 2014, a 14-year-old student was killed and a teacher was injured in Troutdale.
- In 2015, eight students and one teacher were killed, and eight people were wounded at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.
Smith said the large amount of gun violence doesn’t have to happen.
“If we can change our culture and we can decide we're not willing to accept this as the reality of today and tomorrow…we [can] vote [against] people who make these rules and laws and make these decisions,” said Smith.
Although the event focuses on gun violence, it will also will address social issues that will impact the next generation.
“It's our choice how we're going to leave this planet for the next generation and if we continue to live the way we're living right now, then the planet is not going to be livable for very much longer,” said Smith.
After the vigil, government officials and local activists will give speeches to promote gun safety, immigration reform, and climate justice. Speakers include Mayor Lucy Vinis of Eugene, Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, Oregon State Senator James Manning, Patty Hine from 350 Eugene, and Lex Worden with Sunrise Eugene.
Smith said if the country truly cares about freedom and human rights, people need to express these concerns to their lawmakers.
“We don't want children to be treated like criminals when they come across the American border,” said Smith. “They're fleeing war-torn countries and drug cartels. They're coming here because their lives are in danger in their countries and we're treating them as criminals when we've all come here from an immigrant past.”
The goal of the rally is to draw attention to issues not just in the United States, but worldwide.
“We already have a lot of species of plants and animals that have gone extinct or on the brink of becoming extinct, and if we don't do things to protect these living plants and animals, then the world is going to change in a way that is not for the better,” said Smith.
Smith said people need to take action if they want a peaceful and law-abiding society.
“They’re big goals, but if we just sit back and say, ‘We can't do anything,’ then nothing's going to change,” said Smith.
The rally will be held Saturday at noon at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza.