300 Men March Group and Others Speak & Step-Out Against Continuing Baltimore Violence
by Kamau High
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
One day after the 100th homicide in Baltimore was recorded, a group held a rally calling for people to get involved in stopping the violence wracking the city.
About 40 activists gathered on N. Pulaski St. and Edmondson Ave. in the Western District at 7 p.m. wearing black 300 Men Marchshirts.
“You cannot have growth or development with these levels of violence,” said Councilman William “Pete” Welch, whose District 9 includes the neighborhood. In an effort to address the rising violence Welch will soon be introducing legislation to the City Council that calls for conflict resolution training for students in grades K-12.
“We’ve been through this before and thought we had a handle on it,” added Welch. “The community needs to come back and take back their neighborhoods.”
On Wednesday night, the 100th victim of a homicide this year in Baltimore died. At the same time last year, 71 people had been killed.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, at a news conference on Thursday, said, “It’s extremely frustrating. It is disheartening, but I am still resolved to continue to reduce violent crime in our city.”
There has a been a spike in homicides since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and the uprising and protest that followed in late April and early May. On Wednesday at a news conference, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said that when officers go to investigate crimes in the Western District they are often surrounded by people with cell phones and cameras.
“It makes it very difficult for us to follow up on violence that takes place there. If you have 50 or 60 people it makes it difficult to get eye witnesses, it makes it difficult to get information,” he said. As a result, police leadership with experience in the Western District will be shifted to the community. “We are going to re-engage the community and get on top of the issues that are there.”
Councilman Brandon Scott, District 2, was on hand during the rally. That’s because he is a co-founder, along with Munir Bahar, of 300 Men March. The group began in 2013 when a similar spate of violence was convulsing the city.
“It’s a perfect storm of bad stuff happening. You’ve got cops working for 20 hours at a time. You’ve got elements of the street feeling vindicated after Freddie Gray,” said Scott. “When it gets warm you see stuff pop up. Everyone can do something to improve the lives of young men. Anyone not working every day to help young people is not a man.”
Nasir Mcray’s Soul Source restaurant has been on the corner of N. Pulaski and Edmondson for 34 years. He has seen how the police deal with murders change over the years.
“At one time, if someone was killed here, there was a heavy police presence. Now they just scrape them up and leave. It’s because by the time they finish scraping one up they have to go get another,” he said adding, “Someone got killed right on this corner the other day. People just stood around taking pictures. They put those pictures up on Facebook with the guy’s head blown off. It’s like Mexico out here.”
During the rally Scott addressed what people could do about the escalating violence.
“A lot of us out here do a lot, but clearly that’s not enough,” he said. “We all have to ratchet it up as long as the stupidity in our community is ratcheted up. As long as the cowardice is ratcheted up in our community. As long as we have women being executed; shot in the head. As long as we have men being executed; shot in the head. Children being gunned down while people are silent. We have to start doing whatever we have to do to make this stuff stop. Because too many people are dying for us to be this quiet.”
Munir also addressed the crowd.
“We are operating in a state of emergency. That means that everything we are doing right now, everything, is to contribute to some effort and some solution to bring this violence down,” he said. “If we don’t fix this this summer, we have failed.”