It was supposed to be a day of celebration in downtown Akron.

A number of civic organizations banding together to celebrate the city's youth and the start of another school year.

But the horrifying events just some 200 miles away in Dayton and even farther away in El Paso, Texas, where collectively scores were killed and injured in mass shootings, were on the minds of those attending downtown events Sunday afternoon. At Lock 3 Park, backpacks and school supplies were being handed out; just down Main Street, meanwhile, fans gathered for Akron RubberDucks baseball.

And while kids played on bounce houses and fans cheered on balls and strikes, gun violence struck home in Akron as one man was killed and another wounded in a shooting in the city's West Hill neighborhood.

Deputy Mayor James Hardy sent out an email early Sunday morning asking places where large crowds gather like Canal Park to yet again take a look at security measures to ensure the safety of guests after the killings in Dayton and Texas.

RubberDucks General Manager Jim Pfander said they have Akron police officers both inside and outside of the ballpark on game days along with their own security workers walking the concourse around the stadium that has an average attendance of around 5,000 fans a game.

The team takes to the road this week, so Pfander said it will be a good time to once again look over the security plans to not only prevent but also to react should the unthinkable happen.

The city is fortunate to have hosted the Eastern League All-Star game and even a Rascal Flatts concert at Canal Park in recent years, so its security plan and procedures have been given some tight scrutiny.

"Fan safety is our No. 1 priority," he said.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan took to social media on Sunday to offer solidarity to Dayton and El Paso.

“I have been on the record on this issue from my first day in office," the mayor wrote. "This is not inevitable; and we don't have to live like this. The state and federal governments have worked tirelessly to strip local officials — like [Dayton] Mayor [Nan] Whaley and me — of any control over gun policy. But I have never stopped fighting for the safety of our citizens."

Horrigan said gun violence has reached an epidemic in the country.

"When our children cannot attend school safely, when we cannot run errands without fear of attack, when we cannot securely gather as a community — the balance between our essential freedoms is lost and action must be taken," the mayor asserted.  "Americans of all political stripes agree that now is the time to pass common-sense gun control. No person should be so heavily armed as to take nine souls, and forever scar 26 others, in less than 60 seconds, as happened in Dayton.”

Eric Fletcher of the Young Black Professionals Coalition, which hosted Sunday's backpack giveaway, hopes to save children from gun violence or a pathway to crime.

The groups that participated including the Fallen Fathers Foundation, the Jessica Kay Foundation and the DALE (Discipline, Athletics, Leadership and Education) Foundation all are working to promote change in Akron's neighborhoods and help end gun violence.

"The violence in this country is too high," Fletcher said. "We want to show these kids there are organizations out there that care about them and show them love.

"We need to welcome love."

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.