North Baltimore marches, rallies show solidarity for peace

People walk along Greenmount Avenue and York Road during some of the Community Walks for Peace in Baltimore, MD on Friday, May 1, 2015.

Hundreds of people turned out for two marches and rallies in North Baltimore to speak up for peace after a week of riots, looting and curfews in the wake of Freddie Gray's death while in police custody.

But the calls for peace were accompanied by calls for justice, even after city State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby ruled Gray's death a homicide and announced charges against six officers ranging from second-degree murder to manslaughter.


"Honk for peace," said Lisa O'Reilly's handwritten sign that she held in a median at the busy intersection of York Road and Northern Parkway, where a boisterous crowd stood at all four corners during what was billed as a "March for Peace."

For O'Reilly, the march was partly about taking her neighborhood back after looting as far north as the Staples store near Belvedere Square.

"After investing 14 years of my life in this neighborhood, it's mine," declared Lisa O'Reilly, a member of the York Road Partnership and a resident of the nearby York-Homeland neighborhood, who emigrated from Ireland and is a pastoral associate at three Catholic churches in East Baltimore.

"This is terrific," said Capt. Richard Gibson, executive officer of the Baltimore City Police Department's Northern District, watching the event with Bill Miller, of Roland Springs, president of the Northern District Community Relations Council, a citizens' advisory group.

Joining the march was City Councilman Bill Henry, who represents the York Road corridor. He said city police need better training to be prepared to deal with crises.

Many of the people at Northern Parkway and York Road were the same people who marched in the area on Tuesday after a night of riots and looting.

"This is the second time the community has organized to show that this is how we want to affect change," Henry said.

Murat Mercan, a native of Turkey and owner of the York Road eatery, Toss: A Gourmet Pizzeria, came to show his support for a broader peace in the city.


"Of course, they need to charge" the officers," he said. "But it's not the solution in the long run. We need to do better all the way around. Kids have no hope for the future. We need to give them some opportunities."

Beyond showing solidarity, "We have a ton of work to do to continue to strengthen our schools and neighborhoods," said Erin O'Keefe, director of Loyola University Maryland's York Road Initiative.

"What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now," shouted an equally large crowd that met at the ACE hardware store in Waverly and marched up 33rd Street.

Helping to hold a banner at the front of the march were Mary Pat Clarke, a city councilwoman, Lisa Simeone, of Charles Village, Sandy Sparks, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, and Terrell Williams, of Coldspring Newtown Montebello. Williams is running against Clarke for the City Council's 14th District seat.

When asked why they were still demanding justice after charges were brought, Clarke said, "We're on the way. It's the beginning of a long story, but a positive beginning for the city."

"We're showing that our businesses have our support and that our communities have our support," said Emily Drasher, new executive director of Waverly Main Street.


Crystallynn Faller, of Abell, said she was walking her dog, Artichoke, in the march because she stood for peace and wanted to be part of something positive.

"This is for something," she said. "This is not a fight. This is a celebration "

"We're showing we are together as a community," said Ira Kowler, assistant director of neighborhood programs for the Charles Village-based Greater Homewood Community Corp., which strives to strengthen neighborhoods in north and central Baltimore.

Also marching was the Rev. Jesse Parker, of St. John's in the Village Church, in Waverly, who said he was saddened by the death of Gray, the charges filed and the unrest in the city.

"I believe in justice for everybody, and we haven't had it," he said.