Second Baltimore Ceasefire comes to a close: 'People do care'

Baltimoreans gathered at a street corner in the Abell neighborhood Sunday evening to light candles in the memory of each of the 301 people who have been killed in the city so far this year.

With the candlelight illuminating his young face, 11-year-old Naftali Beller shook his head.

"It's just very depressing," he said, his eyes flicking from one candle to the next.

Megan Beller has had to come up with ways to explain the sound of nearby gunfire to her three young sons. She doesn't want her boys to feel crushed by the city's staggering homicide rate.

That was why she brought them with her to the evening vigil Sunday. The event at the corner of 32nd Street and Brentwood Avenue helped bring the weekend's Baltimore Ceasefire to a close.

"It's good for kids to know that their friends and neighbors are thinking about how to make the world a better place," said Beller, 36. "I can't fix everything for them, but I can show them that people do care and are trying to do something about this."

The vigil came at the end of a weekend packed with events promoting 72 hours free of killing. Earlier Sunday, organizers scheduled a “Hoop Don’t Hurt” basketball tournament, a film presentation, a barbecue and a peace walk — all attempts to get communities involved in the fight to stop gunfire.

It’s the second time this year that activists have flooded the streets with the message: “Nobody kill anybody.”

Leading up to the first ceasefire in August, city residents plastered that message on posters and fliers put up around the city. Still, two men — Lamontrey Tynes and Donte Johnson — were killed during the three-day period, and four others were wounded by gunfire.

In the three months since that call for peace, more than 100 people have been killed.

This second ceasefire began just a few hours after the city crossed a dark milestone: By Thursday night, Baltimore had suffered 300 homicides in the first 307 days of the year.

On the second day of the truce, another name was added to the list of victims.

Tony Anthony Mason Jr., 40, an off-duty Washington police officer who lived in Baltimore, was shot and killed early Saturday morning in the Panway/Braddish Avenue neighborhood. A woman who was with him was shot in the leg, police said.

Investigators believe the victims were inside a parked car when an unknown suspect approached, began shooting and then fled, police said. The Baltimore office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is offering up to $10,000 for information about the shooting.

Ceasefire participants said the violence doesn’t make the mission any less worthwhile.

“We can’t prove if it’ll decrease the statistics,” said Janeen Johnally, 25. “But just being sad over it and watching TV isn’t going to do much. People need to see we’re supporting a community many have forgotten.”

Johnally was one of a few dozen people, many dressed all in white, who marched at Patterson Park for the Walk for Peace Sunday evening organized by Not Without Black Women. The group held candles as they made their way through the neighborhood.

“It’s important to uplift black women who put things back together when our cities fall apart from the violence,” director Brittany Oliver said.

Oliver’s uncle was killed last year. The first day of the first ceasefire was the first anniversary of his death.

“A year later, it still hurts,” said Oliver, 29. “The ceasefire has given me the opportunity to find my voice. It helped me feel I can make a difference, that I’m not alone in my grief.”

Erricka Bridgeford, one of the ceasefire's founders, has said activists will echo their calls for a truce every three months until the violence slows.

JoAnn Robinson lit a candle at the vigil Sunday evening.

“We have to make it stop,” she said. “One life is too many to be snuffed out in these senseless ways.”

trichman@baltsun.com

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