Ashland residents demonstrated their concern Sunday evening after a string of sexual assault cases in the last month put the town on edge.
More than 100 people met at Triangle Park as part of a community effort to raise awareness of sexual assault.
Led by organizers Justin Devecka, Sunny Lindley and Aubrey Sharp, the group formed around 5 p.m. at Triangle Park. Thirty minutes later, they took to the street, marching down Siskiyou Boulevard — a crowd of dozens holding signs and chanting slogans of empowerment.
"These are our streets, too," Lindley said. "The community should come together to make sure everyone feels safe."
The group left from the park at 5:30 p.m. and arrived on the plaza downtown several minutes later. Marchers were given candles to light, marking a symbol of support for assault victims and showing the community they are united against sexual assault.
Venessa Houk came to Triangle Park with her husband and three daughters. Houk said she brought her family to the march because she wanted to be part of the message organizers were expressing: love over hate and compassion over violence.
"I think it's really important that we are all together and showing our support for the victims and everyone who has ever been a victim (of sexual assault)," Houk said.
The recent string of criminal activity hasn't changed Houk's positive opinion of her community. But she said the threat to public safety is a cause for concern, one she and her family are not taking lightly.
"We've lived here for 10 straight years and some time before that," Houk said. "It's a great place to live and we want to keep it that way."
Jess Rowan is a senior at Southern Oregon University. She brought a friend to the park because she wanted to show her support and help start the healing process for those who have been victimized.
"We're here to support the victims and to keep standing up against whoever is doing this," Rowan said. "Obviously there's been more of this going on lately. But it's also something that happens in a community and I think we need to be aware of that as well and support all the victims."
Anger was a common sentiment among many of the park gatherers.
"I'm angry this could happen to people in our town," one resident said.
"We need to get the creeps," another said.
Coordinators of the event said they understood the strength of emotions people were feeling. But they added Sunday's rally was about promoting positive feelings — coming together and showing the instigators of violence they cannot shake the town's sense of safety.
Watching the rally, Louise Clausen said she could not help but feel shaken by the recent events. But, watching the group begin to march downtown, she felt heartened knowing that acts of wrongdoing could generate such an overwhelming show of support from the community.
"It's scary, it's not something you want to think about," Clausen said. "But it is important to get out and get our voices heard like this."
Police do not currently have any suspects in the assaults, but are investigating all leads, while officers are working overtime on the cases.
Anyone with any information on the string of sexual assaults is asked to call the Ashland Police Department at 482-5211.
Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at email@example.com.