First Amendment Memorial Unveiled in Annapolis
By Kathy Knotts
On a blistering hot June morning, hundreds gathered to witness the unveiling of the Guardians of the First Amendment Memorial in downtown Annapolis. The solemn occasion marked the third anniversary of the murders of five Capital Gazette staffers June 28, 2018. It was the largest killing of journalists in American history and came during a period when negativity toward the press was at an all-time high.
The memorial sits on a plaza at the corner of Compromise and Newman Streets with an oak tree at its center. A brick wall contains the words of the First Amendment along with a replica of the June 28 front page of the Capital Gazette. Five pillars surround the memorial, honoring the lives of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters.
The project was supported by the Caucus of African American Leaders and was initiated by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee and is a collaboration between state and local governments as well as community organizations, nonprofits, and individual donors.
The Caucus selected the concept, hired the design and construction firm, and secured project funding. The State of Maryland and Anne Arundel County provided grants. The City of Annapolis also provided funding as well as the location on City property.
“Today, it feels right to be together in remembrance of our loss and in our continuing and shared grief,” said Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley. “We are gathered to dedicate this memorial, which I hope you’ll return to and use as a place of reflection to honor the Guardians of the First Amendment: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.”
“Mayor Buckley and County Executive Pittman are to be commended for creating a memorial that will remind future generations of the importance of the First Amendment,” said Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders and emcee of the event. “The journalists who died three years ago were guardians of this precious right and this memorial will stand the test of time and their lives were not in vain.”
Authors and former Baltimore Sun journalists David Simon (best known as creator of HBO’s “The Wire”) and Laura Lippman delivered remarks. Survivors of the shooting, journalists and family members of the victims spoke as did elected officials including Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, County Executive Steuart Pittman and Mayor Gavin Buckley.
“This memorial will inspire future generations of Annapolis visitors to pause and ponder the sacrifices made by five brave Americans in defense of a newspaper, in defense of a free press, and in defense of the foundation of our democracy,” said Pittman.
Speakers also included journalist Phil Davis, who survived the attack and live-tweeted reports from the newsroom, and former Capital editor Rick Hutzell, who said he continues to mourn the loss of his friends but reminded those gathered that the memories aren’t there “in these bricks… but in the hearts of those who loved them.” Tribune Publishing, which owns The Capital, was bought by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund company last month. Hutzell, editor Chase Cook and reporter Danielle Ohl have all left the newspaper after accepting voluntary buyouts.
The sanity trial for the accused gunman, Jarrod Ramos, began this week.