Residents call for gun violence proclamation

A group of Keizer residents turned out at the Keizer City Council meeting Monday, June 1, to implore city leaders to adopt a proclamation recognizing June 5 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day. 

They didn’t get what they hoped for, but they did shine light on the issue of gun violence in heartfelt ways as they talked. 

Councilor Kim Freeman, who acted as mayor pro temp in the absence of Mayor Cathy Clark, said the request to approve the proclamation arrived too late in the hour to reach the city’s agenda. 

“We did receive the information a little later than normal and the mayor is out of town. She likes to read through the proclamations and work to get them worded appropriately,” Freeman said. 

Despite the disappointment, proponents of the action remained vocal in their support. They also encouraged others of a similar mind to wear orange on June 5. 

“I remember growing up and being told not to go down Plymouth or Clearview at night. We didn’t heed those warnings and one of my friends was shot,” said Ramiro “RJ” Navarro. “She was hit in the back twice. We need to come together as a community and say this needs to stop.”

Resident Cyndi Sweeney was brought to tears recounting the final minutes of a cousin, Heather Alvarado, who lost her life in the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert in 2017. 

“She was there with her 14-year-old daughter and threw herself over to take those bullets and she left behind two other children and a husband,” Sweeney said. “Instead of putting all these band aids on, can’t we just face it?”

Michele Roland-Schwartz, executive director of the Keizer-based Sexual Assault Task Force, connected the dots between gun violence and domestic violence. 

“Many of you know that when Covid hit our community, were those in violent relationships suddenly forced into close proximity to their abusers. Requests for shelter from abusive relationships doubled in the weeks after the pandemic hit compared to last year,” Roland-Schwartz said. “We look at guns as a public health issue. One of the ways that we address it is bringing awareness and working toward prevention.”

Keizer resident Carol Doerfler read the names of all the child and adult victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 as she made her statement. 

“As of 2018, there were 7,000 more children who were killed by gunfire. This can never, ever happen again. Please wear orange on Friday, June 5.”

The testimony brought some members of the city council to tears prompting Freeman to request a moment of silence for all at the meeting to compose themselves.