Baltimore residents rally for ‘Ceasefire’ after weekend begins with shootings: ‘We haven’t lost hope’

The Baltimore Ceasefire group had just completed the “sacred space ritual” at the city’s most recent homicide scene at the Perkins Homes housing project in East Baltimore on Saturday. Some bits of sage continued to smolder on the concrete as people walked to their cars and others walked home.

Before Erricka Bridgeford headed to the next event for the Ceasefire movement’s anti-violence weekend, a young boy asked her about why the group had gathered there. She told him about the ritual, which she later explained the group does for all homicide victims and aims to “put love in the space where murder happened."


The boy then told her how his aunt was one of the two people shot in Mason Court on Friday evening. The man who was killed, he said, “jumped in front of my sister. My aunt was shot,” he told her with tears in his eyes. He said his sister is just 14 years old.

“Can I give you a hug?” Bridgeford asked, before drawing him close and embracing him.


The Ceasefire movement, which started under Bridgeford, continues to try to bring peace to Baltimore. Four times a year, organizers host events across the city to discourage violence. Although Ceasefire weekends have shown to correlate to an average 52% reduction in violence in past weekends, Bridgeford said the weekend was difficult after three people were killed and four others were injured in shootings Friday and early Saturday.

Police had not identified any of the victims or provided information about motives Saturday morning.

Bridgeford said that’s the most organizers have seen in one day since the movement began in 2017. But she and others participating in events across the city Saturday appeared undeterred.

“We’re going to keep trying. We haven’t given up and we haven’t lost hope,” said Paul Shelton, who attended another Ceasefire event led by his church, Blessed Sacrament Church in North Baltimore.

He and several other dozen people from Blessed Sacrament and nearby St. Matthew Catholic Church stood along the 4300 block of York Road on Saturday morning holding Ceasefire signs, garnering supportive honks and waves from drivers as they drove past. The group chose to gather in the block where three men were fatally shot and another injured in a shooting on Dec. 30.

When the traffic light turned red, some from the group walked up to cars, passing out Ceasefire flyers and encouraging drivers to spread peace. Shelton, a deacon at Blessed Sacrament, called out to the crowd for another round of chants: “No guns, more peace.”

On the opposite side of the street was Patrick O’Connor, president of the parish council. He said he joined the peace rally because he felt he had to do something to address the violence in his home city.

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“People are tired of the murders,” said O’Connor, an Ednor Gardens resident. “We have to do something.”


Itaria Buonriposi, a nun at St. Matthew who organized the peace rally, said the weekend events are a way for residents to make a stand against violence and offer hope.

“We’re not the police,” she said. “But we can do what we know. As children of God, we can celebrate life,” she said. The Ceasefire movement, she said, “is an affirmation of life.”

For Bridgeford, she sees the movement as a way to respond to the violence and ensuing trauma.

“When Baltimore is in pain, we’re here,” she said. “Our goal is to respond.”

She said that months ago a young woman who had been shot reached out to her, asking her how she could get involved as a way to help her process her trauma. Bridgeford said months went by, and she didn’t hear from the woman. But when she arrived to Perkins Homes on Saturday morning for the ritual, she saw smoke from burning sage. The same woman who had reached out to her before but wasn’t ready to return to shooting scenes was there, leading the ritual.

“She found her strength,” Bridgeford said.