Baltimore hopes for a 72-hour ceasefire
Organizers and supporters of a 72-hour Baltimore “ceasefire” initiative marched and prayed Saturday, even as they acknowledged that their fervent pleas for peace could not halt the relentless pace of shootings and killings in Baltimore.
On the second day of a community initiative aimed at stopping — or at least slowing — gun violence, Baltimoreans held vigils, cookouts and other events. Some stood on corners with signs reading “Baltimore Ceasefire” or “Free Hugs.”
But even as “ceasefire’ events continued late Saturday afternoon, police reported two shootiings, one of them fatal. A 24-year-old man was shot in Pigtown, near Carroll Park, around 5 p.m. Saturday and pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. A second shooting occurred earlier in the afternoon in the 4800 block of Park Heights Ave..
Earlier, “ceasefire” participants had said the goal was to help unify the city.
“This is to let the people in the community know that there’s hope,” said Tyrone Boyette, who was part of a somber walk in which participants stopped at each of the sites in a West Baltimore neighborhood where 11 men were killed in recent months.
“We know it’s not going to stop the murders, but it’s a start,” Boyette said. “If we can get more people involved and we can start having stuff for younger people to do, that’s how we’re going to stop the people from killing each other.”
Boyette was joined by about 150 people in the neighborhood surrounding Frederick Douglass High School and Mondawmin Mall, where police and some residents had squared off in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died of injuries suffered while in police custody. Organizers of this weekend’s events picked that area in part because it became part of the city’s public profile during the riots.
At the site of each killing, Scott Slater — who works with the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland — announced the name of the victim, the date of his death and his age.
“Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord,” Slater would say in prayer at each stop, replacing the “him” with the name of the recent victims, who were as young as 18.
“And let perpetual light shine upon him,” the marchers would answer back.
The sites were so close together that the group often walked just a block or so to get from one to the next.
Baltimore communities have long held events to memorialize and call attention to shooting victims. At the beginning of each year, an organization called Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters United holds a public meeting and reads the names aloud of every person killed in the city in the previous year.
The ceasefire initiative came from Erricka Bridgeford, 44, and other community leaders who created a blunt message: “Nobody kill anybody.” By the end of July, violence had already resulted in a record 204 homicides in the city.
“The Baltimore Ceasefire was not declared by any one organization,” organizers wrote on their website. “This ceasefire is the product of Baltimore residents not only being exhausted by homicides, but believing that Baltimore can have a murder-free weekend if everyone takes responsibility.”
There were more than 30 events planned in connection with “ceasefire” citywide over the weekend
A number of groups were represented Saturday. They included Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the Episcopal Diocese, and Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. Some elected officials also participated.
“It’s solemn,” said Del. Shelly Hettleman of Baltimore County, who joined the marchers on a clear, unseasonably cool morning. “I mean, it’s shocking when you’re standing in the area where you know someone lost their life. You look around, and there are some boarded-up houses but then in another house there are men and women sitting on the stoop and you realize this is their neighborhood and their community. And it’s really important for them to know that outside of their immediate community that people are focused and care a lot about what happens here.”
Hettleman and others had held out hope early Saturday that the weekend might be free of gun violence.
“I didn’t even look at the news [Friday] night,” she said. “This morning I decided to just show up here” and hope for the best, she said.
But none said they would consider the “ceasefire’ a failure — no matter what transpired in the city over the weekend.
Police said they were searching Saturday for witnesses following the fatal shooting near the intersection of South Carey Street and Sergeant Street.
Police said the victim in the nonfatal Park Heights shooting was a 22-year-old man who showed up at a hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm. The names of the victims were not released.
There were more “ceasefire” activities scheduled for Sunday, including church events and a peace walk and vigil.
“It’s sad that sometimes you get used to doing causes like this,” said Boyette. “But the more people that participate, the less people that are out there committing a crime.”