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Forum Looks at Violence Prevention on Micro Level

Saturday's event at East Middle School focused on how each person can play a role in preventing the acts of violence seen in Newtown and the Oak Creek Sikh temple.

Those who came to Saturday's community forum ready for a fight on gun control—and judging by the NRA pamphlets distributed outside East Middle School, some were—probably went home disappointed.

The forum was a departure from many of the debates happening around the country and in high levels of government following the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Ct.

Five months after Oak Creek was shocked by the mass shooting at the Sikh temple, community leaders discussed how these events happen and the things any person can do to help prevent them in the future.

"I wanted to make sure this wasn't a two-hour discussion about gun control, because frankly I don't think it would have been productive," Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said. "Guns were mentioned, as were many other issues that lead up to it. I think that was the best way to positively handle the problem from the local community perspective."

Scaffidi, who organized the forum, said he wanted to focus on the little things people can do to make a difference, rather than engage in polarizing political discussions.

To that end:

- U.S. Attorney James Santelle and former white supremacist Arno Michaels talked about the role hatred plays.

Michaels knows better than anybody about the environment from which temple gunman Wade Michael Page came. He was a founding member of the Northern Hammerskins, which Page joined in late 2011. Also like Page, he sang in a white supremacist rock band.

"In many ways, I set the stage and I created the environment that he came from," Michaels said.

Talking about his Serve 2 Unite organization that emerged after the Sikh temple shootings, Michaels said, "The most challenging thing we can face is to respond to aggression with compassion. ... We first and foremost challenge ourselves to do that in our daily lives. And then we invite the community and we invite students we speak with to follow our lead and also to inspire us. It becomes a really beautiful example of interdependence and compassion and all the things that I feel are most wonderful about being a human being."

-Marcia Williams of Brookfield-based Systemic Perspectives, which offers therapy services, said it's unfortunate no one got to Page when he was younger and stopped him from becoming a hateful adult.

"Each of the people that created violence across the country was once a child and raised perhaps in abuse or in a violent or angry household," she said. "That trajectory could have been changed if someone else outside of that family had been ... responsive to the child, and could have added another element of love or caring for that child."

-Professionals in areas like law enforcement and mental health need to do a better job of sharing information so that people like Page and Newtown shooter Adam Lanza are identified early, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said.

It's also incumbent on people to report suspicious behavior or people clearly in need of help, he said.

"It's upon everybody in this room and everyone in this city, if you see anything, you don't walk away," Edwards said.

-Mental health professionals said a very small percentage of children who have social or emotional issues receive treatment. They said most people with mental illness recover and go on to live meaningful lives, and just need to be connected with treatment.

The forum allowed the 100 or so people in attendance to submit questions in writing and, afterward, speak with panelists 1-on-1.

"It's almost like you want to put this all behind you ... but it's good to address it," audience member Ken Stauffer said. "There were some very profound comments here today. It was a good event."

Scaffidi said Saturday's forum is only the starting point of what will be an ongoing conversation.

"I've said all along this is not going to be an easy thing, but I think I tried to pinpoint there can be some easy parts to it," Scaffidi said. "The little things in life that make us more safe, make us more secure. Hopefully the public that was here got that out of it."

Be Logical January 15, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Not sure why you addressed my comments to the mayor. I actually counted the people there. I am not the mayor, so your detective skills are lacking.
vocal local 1 January 15, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Not important. You actually counted? By ones, fives or tens? Oh, 3's as you counted 150 and 3X50=150. Even the article reads 100. I wrote apx 50 residents in attendance. Are you counting the panel members, the cops, the custodian, all the city employee's and spouses, the press, and the out of towners? Even then you'd be hard pressed to come up with 150. Did you learn to count in OC schools? I'm starting to hear whispers that the problem in our schools is the lower level intelligence student majority staff is trying to educate which may account for a 63% cut off for a D and our lower end curriculum average. used to be anything below 70 was a F and we had higher average curriculum standards. Now what to you have to say to this math wizard?
Be Logical January 17, 2013 at 05:51 PM
I counted everyone in the room. Honestly, I counted 147, and rounded, so I guess in your world that would mean I lied. It will be interesting to hear what your plans are for school board since you have previously stated that all the schools should be closed and students do distance learning.
vocal local 1 January 18, 2013 at 07:38 AM
I didn't say there were not 100 or as you claim 147 people at the informational session. I said there were only 50 residents and they were mostly seniors. The majority of the residents choose to go to the High School for the band thing. That parking lot was filled. Middle School had lots of empty parking space now didn't it. How do you like the rumors of Recall? The residents may be slow to grasp what is going on as all discussion and planning took place behind closed doors but now that the plans have been finalized with legal contracts and made public the public is standing up. Time to clean house is my take. OC could have been an independent community without shared state aid but city officials decided to be greedy and put us into big time debt to receive state aide thus bow to Madison's directives and sell out of the city to We Energy. Very Very Risky, Elected officials should not vote against the voice of the public which here in OC they do. The council is so confused by all the gibberish they don't even know the financials. IF your not Scaffidi then I don't know who you are which places me at an unfair disadvantage more of OC ideology. Don't Tread On Me.
Be Logical January 21, 2013 at 01:40 AM
Don't threaten me.

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