Pledge: 'I promise to offer respect to all people...'
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- It's no secret this is a time of heightened tension in our country and our communities.
Now, a new program is trying to bring opposite sides on some difficult issues together, to talk and communicate in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told NewsChannel 21 on Friday: "Who in our community hasn't said, 'What the heck is going on in our country,' right?"
Friday may have been a highlight for Hummel.
"This has been one of the most impactful days of my professional career," he said.
Hummel was a major force behind the launch of the Central Oregon Decency Project.
"A bunch of us came together and said, ‘We need to start having discussions in our community, so we can get to know one another and understand the viewpoints of people with whom we disagree with,’" he said.
Friday's event, held at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, allowed parties from both sides of a criminal case to come together and discuss their problems.
Luke Richter, president of the Central Oregon Peacekeepers, was there to talk with a man who is charged with blowing exhaust fumes during a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Bend last May.
"The conversations are going to be what brings people together and what moves this country forward,” Richter said. “So if people just aren't willing to stand with each other and just talk about the differences, then we're not going to get anywhere."
On another side, Hannah Carrick spoke after she vandalized Drake Park with graffiti.
"I kind of jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “Because the alternative was a more traditional justice route, which really doesn't allow any room for the defendant or the victim to talk at all about the context, the personal history of the emotions that are involved with any given crime."
A big part of the Central Oregon Decency project is the decency pledge from the American Decency Project, which reads in part, “I promise to offer respect to all people."
Hummel said, "It's attainable, and it should be something we all strive for."
He added that The Decency Pledge did not keep the event from getting emotional at times, while still having constructive conversations.
"I'm not naïve,” Hummel said. “I don't think we're going to come out of here with all love and balloons and happiness. But I do think people will come out, having said to themselves, 'Wow -- that was a special and impactful day.'"
This is just the first step, he said, to a bigger initiative.