AP Photo/Brian Witte
"The Guardians of the First Amendment" Memorial was erected in honor of the five people who were killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper three years earlier. Represented by the five pillars, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, and John McNamara died in the shooting. The panel behind the pillars shows the First Amendment.
AP Photo/Brian Witte
A memorial honoring the five Capital Gazette newspaper employees fatally shot by a gunman in 2018 was dedicated on Monday in downtown Annapolis.
The memorial, called "The Guardians of the First Amendment" has five 8-foot tall pillars, one for each of the deceased, that sit in front of a brick wall with an engraving of the first amendment. Three years to the day after the attack, a few hundred people made up of survivors, victim's family members and the press gathered to honor the lives of Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Rob Hiaasen, and Wendi Winters. A criminal responsibility trial for the gunman — who already pleaded guilty — begins Tuesday.
Former editor-in-chief Rick Hutzell thanked the city and county officials who helped create the memorial.
"The true memorial to Rob, Wendi, John, Gerald, and Rebecca is in the hearts of those who loved and worked with them," Hutzell said, choking back tears.
Earlier this month, Hutzell and two other employees at the Gazette took buyouts when the paper's new owner, Alden Global Capital, took over. Alden is a hedge fund with a reputation for buying and shrinking community newspaper across the country. Hutzell also asked the public to honor the lives of his colleagues in another way.
"If you care about journalism and truth and freedom of the press anywhere, subscribe to your local news organization...because that's the only way they will survive," Hutzell said, followed by applause.
Several speakers, including Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, criticized Alden for shrinking the paper's staff.
"I hope we can find a way to recreate what they took away from us...'We need a damn newspaper,'" Pittman said. quoting one of the paper's employees, who said they would put out of paper on the day of the shooting.
Alden representatives were not present at the ceremony and didn't respond to DCist/WAMU's multiple requests for comment.
Family members of the victims, including Andrea Chamblee, the widow of John McNamara, also spoke at the ceremony, reflecting on the other part of the First Amendment: freedom of speech. Chamblee has been outspoken about gun control measures at the state level and didn't shy away from the topic in her remarks.
"I'm here to say I won't be silent," Chamblee said. "We're dedicated to preventing this from never happening again to any newspaper to any family to anyone."
Chamblee and the group Moms Demand Action, a gun control organization, fought for a bill during the state's last legislative session that would require background checks in the transfer of guns from one family member to another. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the bill.
"I still have hope that our leaders, including our governor, will use the powers we give them to make changes to prevent the impact of this violence," Chamblee said.
Summerleigh Winters, the daughter of Wendi Winters, recalled the last conversation she had with her mother three years ago, to the day. Wendi twirled in a black and white stripped dress and a red sweater then asked Summerleigh, "Do you get it?"
"I did not," Summerleigh told the crowd, to giggles. "'I'm black and white and red all over.' And that summed up what being a journalist meant to her [Wendi]. She loved every part of her job. She didn't do it for the money. She did it for the community and she did it for us, me, my siblings."
Summerleigh added that now that last conversation with her mother sounds like a mean joke to a newspaper "so stained in blood. But yet we press on." Indeed, the paper is still being published.
A similar memorial to freedom of the press nationwide is expected to be built in the District.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.