Choose Respect rally draws big crowd

The crowd gathers across the street from the state capitol building.

As Juneau’s blustery wind blew in a cold driving rain about noon today, more and more people gathered on the capitol steps to “Choose Respect.”

The capital city was one of about 80 communities across Alaska to host events as part of Gov. Sean Parnell’s initiative to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. Before the week is out, 123 communities will have held a “Choose Respect” march or rally.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell hosted Juneau's "Choose Respect" rally.

“One assault is too many, one rape is one too many, ” Lt. Gov. Mean Treadwell told the crowd of nearly 200. “We want all people to thrive in Alaska. We want Alaska to lead. But we should not lead in the grim statistics of sexual assault, domestic violence and hurting our children. We’ve got to turn that around.”

Anchorage Rep. Anna Fairclough gave some of the grim statistics. “In Alaska, compared to America and other states across our nation, women are 2 point 5 times more likely to be raped during their lifetime. Children, whom we all love and want to see grow to be happy, healthy, protected individuals, are six times more likely to experience child abuse in the state of Alaska,” she said.
Kotzebue Rep. Reggie Joule, an Inupiat Eskimo, has been a victim of abuse. “And choosing respect for me after that kind of violation meant that I had to learn to respect myself,” he said.
As the legislators spoke, the sideways rain started to soak the crowd and the signs. Joule seized the moment.
“In Juneau, in Southeast, where the strongest of the Southeast winds, the Taku, makes us shiver, it’s here to help us to carry this message all across Alaska,” Joule said. “It’s a strong message. It has to be taken to everyone’s heart.”

Thunder Mountain High School basketball players look on as head coach John Blasco spoke to the crowd.

The crowd included more than 30 members of the Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball team and their head coach, John Blasco. Two years ago, Blasco introduced the Coach Boys into Men program to his players, which teaches respect of peers, how to be accountable for one’s actions, to value relationships, avoid physical violence, and abstain from using derogatory language.

“We have seen over the last two seasons incredible changes amongst them, as a result of this program,” Blasco told the crowd.
Senior basketball and soccer player Coltin Lanz told this reporter that he was glad to participate in the rally, because choosing respect “is the right thing to do. Plain and simple.”
After the speeches, the crowd — lead by a squad of the Southeast Alaska Panhandlers motorcycle club — marched the four blocks to Marine Park, chanting “Choose Respect” along the way.

After the rally, much of the crowd marched to Marine Park, chanting "Choose Respect."

Before today’s rally began, the Alaska House of Representatives approved House Concurrent Resolution 28, which proclaims April to be sexual assault awareness month.

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