300 Men March rally with city on brink of 300 homicides

300 Men March against 300 homicides

Members of the anti-violence group 300 Men March rallied on a cracked concrete lot at Old Town Mall on Saturday afternoon, just hours before Baltimore hit a mark for homicides not passed since the late 90s.

Munir Bahar, the group's leader, said the level of violence that has swept through the city this year was obvious to anyone living in its neighborhoods.

"We saw this coming, 300 homicides," he said. "We're at 299, and the way it's going by the time we finish marching today it's going to be a 300 or 301."

On Saturday afternoon, a group of about 60 men planned to march northwest from the abandoned mall to the Park Circle block where 24-year-old Kendal Fenwick was killed last week. The father of three had been building a fence around his home to protect his children from drug dealers and Bahar said it was unacceptable that he had been left isolated in his own neighborhood.

"They killed him. Why? Because they probably saw him as someone being on their own," Bahar said. "I'm pretty sure somebody knew what he was going through or dealing with."

Fenwick, who worked as a truck driver, was the city's 295th homicide victim of 2015, and by the time Bahar spoke, four more people had been killed. Bahar said the group wanted to honor Fenwick's memory and his selflessness by marking a minute of silence outside his home.

The group has a simple slogan — "We must stop killing each other" — and speaking from the bed of a black F-150 pickup with the sun behind him, Bahar drove the message home, calling people who kill innocents in Baltimore terrorists.

"I'm from the streets, but we weren't no terrorists, we ain't terrorize our own people," he said. "We do what we do to survive, but surviving doesn't mean terrorizing your own people, especially when it comes to children and women."

While the 300 Men March started as a grassroots effort to denounce violence by parading through city streets, in recent months it has become increasingly well-organized. The group acquired property from the city to build a headquarters in the Broadway East neighborhood last month. Bahar said when the deal went through that he needed to raise $200,000 to meet his goal of opening the space by April.

As it seeks to raise the money, 300 Men March is reaching beyond its existing base. In December it is hosting a leadership conference followed by a $100-a-head black tie dinner.

Councilman Brandon M. Scott, who is a member of the group and marched Saturday, said the events will help further the organization's work.

"You raise the money for the missions," he said.

But on Saturday the group's focus remained on being present on city streets in times of strife. After Bahar finished speaking, the crowd, dressed in black hoodies stamped with the 300 Men March logo, formed up and set out for Park Circle as some supporters applauded.

The group planned to take a 10-mile route through the city. Bahar reminded the walkers that many of them had been part of a march to Washington in the summer, so it shouldn't be too difficult, but he said the point was to show their endurance.

"Even when the problem is tough we keep going," he said. "Even when we want to stop, we keep going."

iduncan@baltsun.com

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