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Baltimore Ceasefire plans second violence-free weekend as homicides near 300

Baltimore Sun logoBaltimore Sun 6 days ago Jessica Anderson
A Baltimore Police Department vehicle sits parked near the scene of a shooting, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Baltimore. © AP Photo/Patrick Semansky A Baltimore Police Department vehicle sits parked near the scene of a shooting, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Baltimore.

As homicides mount, Baltimore residents are again calling for a weekend without violence.

The second 72-hour Baltimore Ceasefire is scheduled Friday through Sunday, with events planned around the city each day in an effort to curb the city's rising number of killings, now near 300.

"We're doing ceasefires quarterly because we saw what the first one did, how much hope it gave the city," said Erricka Bridgeford, one of the event's founders.

By Wednesday afternoon, 297 people had been killed in the city this year. The city has recorded more than 300 homicides each of the previous two years. Before 2015, the city had not recorded 300 or more homicides since 1999.

The first ceasefire event was held in August as the city's homicide count stood at 188. The event included marches, cookouts and vigils across the city. The weekend was pierced by violence - including at least two homicides - but still a success, organizers and attendees said.

It wasn't the first attempt at a violence-free weekend in the city this year. On Mother's Day weekend, the group Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters United, or MOMS, called for a ceasefire. At least four people were shot that weekend, including a 59-year-old man and a 17-year-old woman who were killed.

Despite the continued violence during the August ceasefire event, Bridgeford said she and others are undeterred as more residents feel empowered to do something about the violence.

"People are more aware about their own response to murder. It makes them think, 'What is one even small thing I should be doing to make my city a better place?' " she said.

Since her first ceasefire event, Bridgeford said, volunteers have passed out 20,000 fliers and displayed 2,000 posters. But more importantly, she said, volunteers are sharing resources and having conversations about the root of the violence.

Bridgeford said more people are beginning to realize the problem does have solutions. "Before, we didn't realize," she said.

She used the analogy of a dark room being lit with just one candle. "It is extremely dark, but we are turning on our lights little by little."

Among the events scheduled this weekend will be a human chain that will form along Edmondson Avenue, from Hilton Street to Cooks Lane, from 2 p.m.to 3 p.m. Friday; a poetry slam hosted by Sisters Saving the City at 4 p.m. Friday at 4236 Pimlico Road; a candlelight vigil from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Elderslie Methodist Church, 5601 Pimlico Road; and an event called "Sacred Space Saturday," in which people are encouraged to place a balloon or something visible at the space where their loved one was killed.

Bridgeford said anyone can get involved in the effort by doing anything from leaving flyers at a favorite restaurant or changing a Facebook profile picture.

The more people participate, the more the message is spread that the violence isn't the solution, she said. "To me, that's positive energy."

She said she's optimistic the city is turning a corner."I feel more hopeful and believe in my city," she said.

For a list of ceasefire events, visit www.baltimoreceasefire.com/calendar

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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