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Amid alarming spike in shootings and homicides, a walk for peace

Community activist at peace rally: “All forms of violence in our community is wrong”

As the number of homicides in Baltimore continued to climb in a violent start to the Memorial Day weekend, a group of residents marched Saturday from Sandtown-Winchester to City Hall to call for peace.

With two fatal shootings Friday night and another three Saturday, the number of homicides this year stood at 105 as a group assembled in the afternoon at North Mount and Presbury streets — the scene of the arrest of Freddie Gray.

As of Saturday afternoon, 32 people had been killed in the city during May. Since 2000, the city has never seen more than 33 killed in a single month; two months have recorded 33 homicides in that time, April 2000 and May 2007.

Organizers of the B'more Peaceful protest against violence said they wanted to send a message of unity and peace.

"Today, we are making a unified stand together — one city, one people — against all violence in this city," activist Kinji Scott called from the back of a red pickup truck that led marchers through the city.

"All forms of violence in our community are wrong," he said.

The backdrop of that message was a spate of violence in which 11 people had been shot — five fatally — since late Friday.

It began just after 11 p.m. Friday on Benkert Avenue in southwest Baltimore, where police said a man was shot in the torso. He died at a hospital.

Just before midnight Friday, three people were shot, one fatally, in an incident in the 1900 block of Wilhelm St. in Carrollton Ridge, police said. Another of the three was in critical condition.

About 9 a.m. Saturday, a man was found fatally shot in an alley in the 100 block of S. Augusta Ave. in Irvington. Then, police said, about 1:30 p.m. officers were called to Hollins and Payson streets and found a woman suffering from a gunshot wound to the waist. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.

About 2:15 p.m., officers responded to the 2800 block of St. Lo Drive in Clifton Park for a report of a shooting and found a man with a gunshot wound to the chest. He also died at an area hospital.

Nonfatal shootings were reported Saturday morning in the 1800 block of Edmondson Ave. in Harlem Park, and in the afternoon in the 3200 block of E. Northern Parkway. While police were at the hospital with the victim of the Edmondson Avenue shooting, two additional men walked in for treatment of gunshot wounds.

About 30 people took part in Saturday's march, escorted by police vehicles as they walked through the city. Some participants said the turnout was disappointing, but it didn't take away from their message. They urged residents to come together to work against violence.

Scott said the focus of many recent protests since the death of Gray, the 25-year-old who died after suffering a spinal cord injury in police custody, has been on police brutality.

He also wanted to see residents pay attention to gun violence within neighborhoods.

March participant Tammie Garrett, an administrator and youth leader at Ames Memorial United Methodist Church, said she is troubled by the number of homicides.

"Truthfully, we're killing more of each other than the police are," said Garrett, who used to live in Sandtown and now lives in East Baltimore. "If we want peace, if we want justice, we have to start with ourselves. We have to become unified."

"I'm not saying forget your loved ones who've been killed," said the Rev. Rodney Hudson of Ames Memorial United Methodist Church. "What I'm saying is: Do something about it."

Members of the Revolutionary Communist Party also attended the march, including Noche Diaz. He said that as the group marched though the city, he was struck by the contrast between boarded-up buildings in some neighborhoods and gleaming development downtown.

Many poor people in Baltimore "know this society doesn't care about them, and so they don't care," Diaz said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Lorraine Mirabella and Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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