Baltimore Ceasefire organizers plan for third violence-free weekend

A third citywide Ceasefire event kicked off Friday, with organizers and community members calling for peace for a 72-hour period and holding numerous events, including peace walks, movie screenings, a youth basketball tournament and even a chili cook-off on Super Bowl Sunday.

It also includes events such as Friday’s resource fair at the Men and Family Center in East Baltimore, where some people came in search of jobs, while others were looking for food and a warm place to sleep.

“We want to help people in the community,” said Tiffany Hughes, a Ceasefire organizer at the resource fair. And part of curbing the violence in the city, she said, is addressing the needs in the community.

The quarterly ceasefire weekends began in August as the city was heading toward a third straight year of more than 300 homicides. That event included marches, cookouts and vigils across Baltimore — but also two homicides. Organizers and attendees, however, said they see the events as successes in uniting the community. During the second ceasefire weekend in November, one man was killed.

“We’re doing ceasefires quarterly because we saw what the first one did, how much hope it gave the city,” Erricka Bridgeford, one of the event’s founders, told The Baltimore Sun before the November Ceasefire weekend, held as the city neared 300 homicides.

If this weekend goes as planned, it would not be the first killings-free weekend in Baltimore this year. There were no homicides between Jan. 12-19.

Bridgeford posted a video on her Instagram account this week to get the city “pumped” about the February ceasefire weekend.

“I know a lot of you all think that Baltimore can’t go three whole days without nobody getting killed… but you don’t know what you are talking about if that’s what you think,” Bridgeford said.

She noted the week in January and also a stretch between Nov. 6 and Nov. 12 when there were no homicides. Last year, there were 341 homicides, the highest per-capita rate on record.

Bridgeford also noted that there were two days without any shootings during the last Ceasefire weekend in November.

“We can do it if we put our mind to it, if we all agree this is what we are going to do,” she said in the Instagram video.

In January, the city had 26 homicides, down from 32 recorded in the same month last year.

Hughes said that she and other organizers are seeing momentum, despite the violence during past Ceasefire weekends.

“More people are getting interested and helping,” she said.

Several people who stopped by the resource fair in East Baltimore, just blocks from Johns Hopkins Hospital, said they were familiar with the ceasefire events already and hope to see them continue.

Ford Powell, 44, a truck driver who lives in East Baltimore, has regularly attended Ceasefire weekend events, which he said helps engage residents in their community and will hopefully improve the city.

“Every little bit helps,” he said.

Powell also said he’d like to see more drug treatment and better-trained officers who know how to engage respectfully with residents.

Bridgeford said the violence-free campaign has been successful in mobilizing the community and offering hope to residents who are beginning to recognize that there are solutions to many of the city’s problems.

“Before, we didn’t realize,” she said.

For a list of Ceasefire events this weekend, visit baltimoreceasefire.com/calendar

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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