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David Simon of ‘The Wire,’ author Laura Lippman to speak at Capital Gazette memorial ribbon cutting in June

David Simon, creator of HBO’s “The Wire,” and author Laura Lippman will speak at a ribbon-cutting for Annapolis’ new memorial “Guardians of the First Amendment” on June 28, 2021, the city announced Thursday.

The memorial honors America’s free press as a right enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Its unveiling falls three years since a mass shooting killed five Capital Gazette staffers in their newsroom in 2018.

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Simon and Lippman will be joined at 11 a.m. by elected officials, regional journalists and survivors of the shooting that killed Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith. The event is open to the public.

Chris Wallace, a longtime Fox News host and an Annapolis resident, had been tapped as the keynote speaker for the event but will no longer be speaking. The families of the victims wanted the keynote speaker to be someone they know personally. Lippman and Simon, both former Baltimore Sun reporters that are now married, are family friends with some of the slain journalists.

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Following the newsroom’s attack, Simon wrote an essay paying tribute to Rob Hiaasen, who he knew from his days working at The Sun, and John McNamara, who he knew from the University of Maryland’s campus newspaper, The Diamondback.

Baltimore writer Laura Lippman discusses her newest novel, "Lady in the Lake," during an interview in Locust Point.
Baltimore writer Laura Lippman discusses her newest novel, "Lady in the Lake," during an interview in Locust Point. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Simon is a longtime writer/executive producer of HBO programs such as “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and “The Wire.” He was also a creator of “Treme,” “The Deuce” and “The Plot Against America.” Lippman is a Baltimore native and New York Times bestselling mystery writer. Her 26th book, “Dream Girl,” will be published June 22 by William Morrow.

The memorial’s design features five pillars representing the five lives lost that stand in front of a passage of the First Amendment carved in stone. The memorial will stand beneath the trees of Newman Park, an element that one of the designers hoped will inspire time for reflection. A brick wall includes an engraved Capital front page from the day after the shooting.

The Capital, which is part of Baltimore Sun Media, was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the shooting in its own newsroom and the impact on the community.

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“The First Amendment is sacrosanct. Every civil rights gain made in America was because of the First Amendment,” Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders, said in a statement. “The role that journalists have played has been invaluable. We do not consider the press the enemy of the people but guardians of the First Amendment.”

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee in Anne Arundel County raised an initial $10,000 to hire the architect Moody Graham to design and create the project. Along with contributions from companies and individual donors, the county and city have contributed funding for its creation. Annapolis also has a small memorial garden honoring the slain journalists at Acton Cove Park, which was dedicated one year after the shooting.

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $300,000 grant last week to partially fund the memorial. The original cost was budgeted for the grant amount, but soggy, unstable soil required removing dirt and rock, hauling in new soil and installing steel helical piles — a type of foundation anchor that screws into the earth. The project will now cost roughly half a million dollars.

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