As Colorado Springs struggles to come to terms with Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic that claimed three lives and wounded nine, the city is also struggling to come to terms with how it should solve the problem in its midst.
For some, the answer is more faith; for others, fewer guns and less antiabortion rhetoric.
At the university, a somber crowd of more than 500 turned out to support campus police officer Garrett Swasey, who was fatally shot while attempting to rescue people under assault at the Planned Parenthood clinic. A 44-year-old co-pastor of his church and an ice-skating champion, Swasey was married, had two young children and had worked for the university’s police department for six years.
Mayor John Suthers told the crowd that Swasey’s service would define the city, not the tragedy that killed him, according to the Gazette.
“This tragedy won’t define our community, but the heroism of our first responders and the heroism of Garret Swasey are what defines our community,” he said.
According to the Gazette:
“Swasey’s co-pastors at Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs emphasized the officer’s devotion for his family and faith. They said Swasey’s faith was so strong that he would have wanted everyone to forgive the shooter.”
At the nearby Unitarian Church, the message was less about faith than it was about frustration and a desire for change.
“It’s a time to come together to recognize some of the problems we’re having with violence in our community and instead of being divided, be united,” church member Jennifer Basta told the Gazette.
Throughout the service, the paper reported, speakers emphasized the importance of stricter gun laws and supporting Planned Parenthood.
In one corner of the church, the Gazette reported, former Colorado state lawmaker Dennis Apuan held a sign in support of Planned Parenthood that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields, neither is our town.”
When the Rev. Nori Rost, a senior minister at All Souls, stepped in front of the mourners, she didn’t mince words, referring to Friday’s shooter as a “domestic terrorist” and voicing support for Planned Parenthood, according to the Gazette.
“We’re here to honor the lives of those who were killed yesterday by a domestic terrorist,” She said. “We’re here to honor the work of Planned Parenthood and stand with them in solidarity. We’re here to honor the amazing response of the Colorado Springs police and other responders. But we’re mainly here to find comfort in each other’s company. Together, we can change the world.”
By the time Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, spoke to the crowd about the importance of supporting women’s reproductive rights, one woman told the crowd that she’d had enough, according to the Gazette.
“I thought we were here to grieve and mourn and not make political statements,” she announced before walking out of the service.
Rost responded, telling the crowd that protest was a form of honoring the dead, according to the Gazette.
“It’s important to remember the people who face harm’s way every day because of the obscene access we have to assault weapons in this community,” she said. “If we do not recognize something must be done, then we have fallen short in honoring the lives of those who have been lost.”