Amid calls for a ‘cease-fire,’ gunshots ring out once again in Baltimore

on Aug6

Organizers and supporters of a 72-hour Baltimore “cease-fire” 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 the city.

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 cease-fire events continued late Saturday afternoon, police reported two shootings, one of them fatal. A 24-year-old man was shot in the Pigtown neighborhood around 5 p.m. Saturday and pronounced dead at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Earlier, cease-fire 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 after the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died of injuries suffered while in police custody. Organizers of this weekend’s events picked the area in part because it became part of the city’s public profile during the riots.

At the site of each killing, the Rev. 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 names of 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 aloud the names of every person killed in the city in the previous year.

The cease-fire 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.”

A number of groups were represented Saturday. They included Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. Some elected officials also participated.

“It’s solemn,” said Shelly Hettleman, a state lawmaker from Baltimore County, who joined the marchers on the 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.”

Police were searching Saturday for witnesses after the fatal shooting. Officials said the victim in the nonfatal shooting in the Park Heights neighborhood was a 22-year-old man who showed up at a hospital with a wound to the arm.

More cease-fire activities were 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,” Boyette said. “But the more people that participate, the less people that are out there committing a crime.”

Barker writes for the Baltimore Sun.

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