Sights and sounds from the 300 Man March that crossed from West to East Baltimore. This was the third year for the event. (Karl Mereton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)
Pumped up by chants of "Enough is … enough!," hundreds of men young and old marched across Baltimore on Friday night to call for an end to violence that has claimed more than 150 lives in the city this year, including a dozen children.
On a day when three men were shot — two seriously — the third annual 300 Men March drew at least that many people for a 10-mile round-trip hike down West North Avenue and back. Politicians and community activists addressed the crowd, many of them wearing black "300 Men March" T-shirts, before it set out.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was there, as she has been before the previous marches. She said she came to march and pray with them for an end to the violence plaguing the city, which has intensified since the rioting in April.
"It's not about pointing fingers," she said, or "making excuses. … It's about stepping up."
Event organizers, including Councilman Brandon Scott and 300 Men March leader Munir Bahar, said this year's demonstration was focused particularly in memory of the 12 children killed this year.
"Our babies are being murdered in our streets," Scott said, "and too many of us are being silent."
Scott and Bahar both stressed that the march was not about the tensions between the police and community that fueled the rioting in April. But the subject came up nonetheless.
Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis joined the speakers on the platform and addressed the crowd, vowing to "fight relentlessly" to make the city safer. But he also pledged to strive toward better police-community relations "based on two things — trust and respect." Davis was elevated to the position Wednesday after the Rawlings-Blake fired Commissioner Anthony W. Batts.
Bahar also alluded to the unrest, saying his response had been to organize a leadership training and violence prevention program for teens, and he presented the first 10 recruits. One of the youths read off the names of the youngsters killed this year.
As the marchers began striding east, cars passing in the other direction honked in support, and onlookers clapped and cheered.
"I think it's beautiful — something positive for our young people," said Diana Lansey, as she waved from her porch.
Johnny Dickens-Bey joined fellow members of the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in marching, all of them wearing white T-shirts identifying their affiliation. The 59-year-old city worker said it was his first time at the 300 Men March, but he felt motivated in part by the unrest to come out.
"I grew up in this town," he said. "It's gotta stop," he said of the violence, calling the string of homicides "self-imposed genocide."
Dickens-Bey said he believed citizens have to stand up, but he also said he believed the city has a role in giving people more hope and opportunities by not closing recreation centers and by offering young people jobs and training.
Zaheim Smith, 13, was among the many teenagers in the march who had participated before. The rising freshman at Mervo High School is a member of Beat the Streets, a youth wrestling organization that turned out in force Friday. The youngster said the group was marching because it's "about more than wrestling. It's about getting off the streets and finding something to do that you like."
The crowd drew white as well as black residents. Dale Terrill, 35, of Reservoir Hill, said he'd been drawn into the 300 Men March after meeting Bahar. He marched, he explained, because "every life matters in Baltimore."
"I care too much about the city not to do anything," he added.