ANNAPOLIS, MD - The five Capital Gazette employees killed in an attack in their newsroom last month were "friends of the people,'' and "not one of them deserved to be seen as an enemy,'' the executive editor of The Washington Post said Saturday at a benefit concert for the victims' families and colleagues.
While Martin Baron didn't mention President Donald Trump by name while speaking to an audience from the concert stage, he clearly had the president in mind. Trump has repeatedly denounced the press as the "enemy'' of the American people.
Baron spoke of all five of the victims by name, and he described them as "friends of the people, the people of Annapolis and beyond.''
"Not one of them deserved to be seen as an enemy because of the profession they choose or the place they worked,'' Baron said to applause from the audience. "Not one of them deserved to be seen as an enemy by the man who killed them, and not one of them deserved to be called an enemy by anyone else, either: Nor does anyone else in our field deserve to be labeled that way.''
Baron added: "To demean people like these, to demonize, to dehumanize them, is to debase yourself.''
The day after the shooting, Trump said journalists shouldn't fear being violently attacked while doing their job. He also said the attack "shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief.''
The benefit concert was held a month after the June 28 shooting, which was one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, told the audience the nearly 400 members of the organization stood behind the Capital Gazette. Knox also saluted first responders, who also were being honored by the concert. Knox said some reporters also run toward danger and face threats.
"Still, I divide threats against journalists into two eras: before Feb. 17th, 2017 and after Feb. 17th, 2017,'' Knox said. "That's because on Feb. 17th, 2017, the president of the United States, using his Twitter account, declared us enemies of the American people.''
The suspect, Jarrod Ramos, had a history of harassing the Capital Gazette's journalists. He filed a defamation suit against the paper in 2012 that was dismissed as groundless, and he repeatedly targeted the paper's staff members in profanity-laced tweets. A grand jury indicted Ramos on 23 counts, including murder, attempted murder and assault in the deaths of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Ann Smith and Wendi Winters.
Journalists spoke between musical performances at the event in downtown Annapolis.
Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, said her office grew silent when they first heard reports of the shooting. She said staff at the newspaper's office felt solidarity with the reporters and editors at The Capital.
"They were part of a community that we are all a part of and who remind us that the work we do is so vital to our towns, our cities, our country and our democracy,'' Bumiller said.
The event was titled "Annapolis Rising: A Benefit for the Capital Gazette and Free Press & First Responders.'' Maryland-bred rockers Good Charlotte were headlining the concert Saturday evening.