Panel to discuss prevention of violence

Local leaders, organizations to promote peacekeeping resources at event in Oak Creek

Jan. 8, 2013

Oak Creek - In the wake of the series of shootings America has suffered over the last year, with one right in the city's backyard, panelists will attempt to address the question of how citizens can prevent violence in their own neighborhoods.

Mayor Stephen Scaffidi, Police Chief John Edwards, U.S. Attorney James Santelle, Sikh activist Pardeep Kaleka, County Executive Chris Abele and other invited guests will lead the discussion at Oak Creek East Middle School, 9330 South Shepard Avenue, from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The event is free and open to the public. Members from surrounding communities are invited.

Attendees will receive a list of resources they can use to find and stop violence before it happens. The list will include numbers for mental health institutes, police services and the number for IMPACT 2-1-1, a service for Milwaukee-area residents looking to regain independence from drug or alcohol addiction.

Gun control and beyond

Issues pertaining to gun owner responsibility are on the discussion agenda, including the proper storage of firearms, gun usage safety and ammunition storage.

Scaffidi stressed that while gun control may be discussed, the forum would not be limited to gun control.

"What I won't put up with is...hatred and vitriol not understanding what this is about, immediately jumping to the conclusion that this is a 'take away my guns' argument," he said. "That's not what this is about. I own two guns and support the second amendment fully."

Along with panelists are officially invited guests, including Arno Michaelis, an ex-white supremacist who became an anti-hate advocate, as well as representatives from Peace Learning Circles and the Interfaith Conference.

Interfaith understanding

Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen will speak on education on religion as a means to curb violence. Citing the Pew Forum-sponsored book "Religious Literacy," Heinen said that while Americans are among the top faith-practicing countries, they are one of the lowest in terms of education on faith.

"To become more knowledgeable on your own faith as well as other faiths helps guard you against being easy prey for the disinformation that spreads on the Internet," he said. "You'll be less sucked into vilify other faiths if you know about them."

Heinen will speak on the programs the conference is working on. One such program in the works will bring together groups of eight to 10 people of different faiths to a house to break bread. Cards printed with questions such as "Some religions believe in miracles. What are your thoughts on that?" will be used as talking points.

Resources provided by law enforcement will be on the table as well. One resource that law enforcement provides is a security risk assessment of buildings including places of worship, municipalities and schools.

Scaffidi said this is one of a series of events designed to foster dialogue within the community.

"This isn't just about the Sikh temple," he said. "Nearly every faith group in and around our city has asked how they can help. Because we're separate, church and public officials, doesn't mean that we can't interact with each other."

The next event is planned tentatively around the anniversary of the temple shooting.

Next Step

What: Community discussion on violence

When: 3 to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 12

Where: Oak Creek East Middle School, 9330 South Shepard Ave.

Contact: City Hall, (414) 768-6500

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