We're with the 'village idiots' trying to stop the violence in Baltimore

About a dozen people joined in a prayer walk through neighborhoods in West Baltimore on Saturday morning to commemorate victims of gun violence during Baltimore's first Ceasefire weekend of the year. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun video)

A weekend without violence. That’s all the organizers of the Baltimore Ceasefire movement ask for during its quarterly vigils.

Yet ever since its inception two summers ago, the movement has been pilliored by disparagers of the city rather than celebrated as it should be.


This time the organizers, led by Erricka Bridgeford, were called “village idiots” in a series of insensitive and offensive tweets last weekend by a local restaurant owner. Brian McComas, who owns Ryleigh’s Oyster in Federal Hill and Hunt Valley, and the venue Crossbar. He also said the “thugs” committing the crimes “don’t give an F about a ‘ceasefire.’”

There’s nothing new in that callous and cowardly attitude that too many take about Baltimore and its incessant crime issues. It’s easy to throw jabs at a city plagued with problems — and on social media where you can avoid the gaze of those who live with the violence every day.

Plenty of us are fed up with the shootings, burglaries and other crimes, but the contempt from Mr. McComas and others is aimed in the wrong direction. Lashing out with mean words does nothing to help the problem. Instead, they trivialize and oversimplify the true meaning of the movement.

Ceasefire certainly won’t solve crime overnight, and Ms. Bridgeford and her neighbors aren’t trying to take over the job of the police.

What they are doing, little by little, is creating a sense of community with cookouts and block parties in neighborhoods where violence can create a fear that destroys such cohesion. They hold job fairs in areas where there are few economic opportunities and the easy money from the drug trade becomes too tempting to many young people. Rituals at sites where people have been killed — with chanting and the burning of sage — are reminders that the lives of those killed mean something and that they leave families and communities behind who grieve their loss. The latest ceasefire was held Mother’s Day, a tough time where moms, and dads too, are reminded of the loss of their children to violence.

“It’s not just about shootings, it’s just people being peaceful,” Bridgeford told The Baltimore Sun. “Even just having people think twice about how they’re driving and how they might act in traffic.”

Mr. McComas clarified his tweets after a backlash on Twitter, threats to boycott his restaurant and a request for comment from The Sun. He now says that he supports the Ceasefire Movement and that his anger was really geared at city leaders who aren’t doing anything to stop the violence. He expressed concern that one of his employees, 27-year-old bartender Sebastian Dvorak, was shot to death on Boston Street in Canton in 2017, a loss for which we certainly offer our sympathies.

“I unequivocally support any citizen of Baltimore trying to stop this violence. I sincerely apologize for letting my anger get the better of me to everyone,” he wrote to The Sun in an e-mail.

We suppose he will find out if people believe his apology genuine by the crowds, or lack of crowds, he sees in his restaurants in coming days.

Mr. McComas and his fellow cynics should consider participating in the next Ceasefire Movement and bring some others along with them. After all, as the killings continue, people need to join forces rather than be divided. It could go a long way in convincing people lashing out at him on Twitter that he actually does support the effort and wants to be a part of the solution.

In the meantime, Ms. Bridgeford and other organizers should ignore the skeptics and keep working toward their motto of ‘nobody kill anybody.” Even if they prevent just one killing,their efforts are not in vain.

We’d rather have the “village idiots” who are trying to do something weekend by weekend rather those that sit on the sidelines and do nothing.