Schools students and public officials participated in a statewide Choose Respect event – with a march downtown and a rally at the Sons of Norway hall.
Choose Respect is a campaign sponsored by Governor Sean Parnell to raise awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual assault and bullying.
The students marched on Nordic downtown and then gathered for snacks and to share thoughts and comments on what 'Choose Respect' means to them.
“Sometimes we're a little too polite when we see things we don't like and we hold it in,” said Chief Jim Agner. “Well, domestic violence is never correct. The whole concept of Choose Respect is to give people respect so they can live their lives. And I think we all agree that it's intolerable to hurt people we love. And I think we come to the realization that's it not impolite if you see somebody hurting someone they care for, you can say 'What you're doing is wrong. I don't agree with it.'”
District Attorney David Brower echoed a similar sentiment to the crowd about stopping abuse before it happens. He also commended the crowd just for showing up and getting involved.
“I think this is a good turnout. And having the members of the band on the side of the road, showing support – it's a good thing,” Brower said.
“Respect starts really small, and it can come in many forms,” Superintendent of Schools Rob Thomason said. “It's not okay to hurt people physically, or emotionally, or verbally,” he said.
At the rally, a special recognition went out to Petersburg High School sophomore Diane Murph, whose winning poster design was chosen by the Governor to represent the Choose Respect campaign.
Petersburg was just one of about 120 communities throughout Alaska that participated in Choose Respect rallies. The Governor launched the campaign in response to the high number of domestic violence cases that are reported in the state each year.
“Conversations about respect are ongoing with students,” said Jo Ann Day, event coordinator. “I think this event brought awareness to them about what is a statewide problem. Students aren't the only ones participating today, and it's good for them to get out and participate in these events with community members.”