Baltimore needs a Ceasefire, now more than ever

This weekend’s Baltimore Ceasefire isn’t coming a moment too soon. The fragile optimism that Baltimore felt as last year’s record violence ebbed during the first few months of 2018 cracked in April as an apparent string of retaliation killings brought us back to a murder a day, and it has threatened to break completely this month with the killings of 17-year-old City College standout Ray Antwone Glasgow III and another teen outside a Southwest Baltimore recreation center. Baltimore’s violence has no greater allies than hopelessness, despair and cynicism. We need this Ceasefire Weekend to remind us that we can choose hope, strength and love instead, that we all can believe in the possibility of a better future, and we all must act on that belief.

The first Ceasefire, last August, came at a time when the pace of killings in Baltimore was unrelenting, and the idea of calling for a weekend without murder fell prey to quick mockery — both from people who thought it was incredible that Baltimore would have to call for a 72-hour period when nobody was killed and from those who thought it was an impossible dream. Two people were killed that weekend — Lamontrey Tynes and Donte Johnson — and others were shot. During the second Ceasefire, in November, one man, Tony Mason Jr., an off-duty Washington police officer, was killed. Starting with the third Ceasefire, in February, Baltimore went 12 days without a homicide, the longest such stretch since 2014 and among the longest the city has seen since the 1970s.

The killings at the first two Ceasefires didn’t make them failures any more than the extraordinary period of calm around the third can be attributed solely to the movement. But there can be no denying the power of thousands of Baltimore residents gathering at events large and small simply to will this city toward peace.

Ceasefire weekends aren’t magic. They don’t cast a spell over the city. And they aren’t a wonder drug that causes the fever of violence to break. What they are is something subtler and, if nurtured, more powerful — a collective decision to lay aside our grievances, see one another as humans, forgive our past failings and find strength in our wounds. The movement rests on an understanding that the line between victimhood and violence is fluid, that those who inflict trauma are almost all victims of it themselves. Baltimore’s killers were not born with guns in their hands. Something brought them to violence, and that means something — or, maybe more accurately, someone — can bring them back.

This Ceasefire is scheduled to coincide with Mother’s Day weekend, a powerful reminder of the loss thousands of Baltimore’s mothers have suffered over the years as their sons and daughters have fallen victim to violence. But it is also a reminder that those who are or could become perpetrators of violence have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They have something to live for if they choose it — and if the rest of us choose not to give up on them.

So let’s not give up, Baltimore. Let’s not give up hope just because killings have climbed again. Let’s not give up on those who are dedicating their lives to stop the murders — whether that’s Safe Streets workers or the police department — just because they are imperfect. Let’s not give up on the belief that Baltimore’s violence is not inevitable. Ceasefire challenges us to find strength in what is broken and to have faith that we can each create a more peaceful city with the choices we make. Baltimore needs that now more than ever.

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