Baltimore held its third ceasefire weekend from Feb. 2-4. It was the first successful ceasefire, with no homicides taking place for 72 hours, despite an average city-wide homicide rate of one murder a day. Over the first two ceasefire weekends, which took place last August and November, at least one homicide occurred before 72 hours elapsed.
The movement started in May 2017, when the City’s per capita homicide rate was already on track to being the worst in Baltimore history. Together, concerned citizens formed the organization Baltimore Ceasefire 365 to organize a citywide request to halt gun violence for 72 hours.
Last weekend’s ceasefire is the first since Mayor Catherine Pugh fired former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and replaced him with then Deputy Commissioner Darryl De Sousa.
Baltimore had a total of 341 homicides last year, setting a new record rate for killings per capita, with 55.5 killings per 100,000 people. According to The Baltimore Sun, Pugh had become frustrated with the rise in crime and hoped that De Sousa would be able to effectively reduce the homicide rate.
Ceasefire asked the people of Baltimore to celebrate life by planning community events. They hope to eventually bring the murder rate down to zero by promoting these events.
Homewood Friends, a Quaker community, hosted a screening and discussion of the film 13th to honor the ceasefire on Friday. The film focused on the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery except in the case of criminals. It also discussed the consequences of mass incarceration in the U.S. and how that relates to issues of race and class.
J.C. Faulk, who led a discussion at the film screening, hoped that the ceasefire would encourage people from more privileged communities to combat race and class discrimination in Baltimore.
“Most of us can sit around and pretend we don’t know what’s happening, but we know what’s going on,” Faulk said. “We’d just rather go home and not deal with it if we’re not being directly affected by it.”
He also had a message for Hopkins students in particular.
“Don’t believe what Hopkins tries to make you feel about the black community in Baltimore,” he said. “They make students afraid of the black community coming into this school... Hopkins has done some of the most egregious stuff to black people that any institution in this City has done.”
He encouraged students to take an active role in issues affecting Baltimore.
“Get out, and hear the real stories,” Faulk said. “Get involved. Get outside of the gates that Hopkins tells you not to go outside of, and you’ll see that there’s some really amazing human beings out there.”
On Saturday from 12-1 p.m., supporters held signs on Greenmount and 33rd Street in order to show their solidarity with the ceasefire movement and commemorate victims of gun violence.
Ralph Moore, a Baltimore resident and Hopkins alum from the Class of 1974, said he came to the Greenmount event because he believes in peace.
“This is important,” Moore said. “It might not be directly causal in terms of these demonstrations and activities actually causing a decrease in violence, but I think spiritually it has an impact. It raises a consciousness and awareness in the community for the need for less gun violence in Baltimore.”
Tyree Colion, a Baltimore resident responsible for the “No Shoot Zone” graffiti and signs often found across the City, said he came across the demonstration on Greenmount by chance that day. He said that serving time in prison was a turning point in his life and wanted to share his personal story with the group in order to build hope.
“When I was locked up, I was developing a sense that I should stop people from shooting,” Colion said.
After prison, Colion went home to a neighborhood that, within a four block radius, had five murders in two months. Feeling that he needed to take action, he decided to put up a “No Shoot Zone” sign.
“I counted one week. I counted two weeks. I counted three weeks. Before I knew it, it was a whole year and there was no shooting,” Colion said.
Mica Howes, a Master’s student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, thought that the ceasefire weekend was especially important because it raises awareness for those who feel removed from violence in Baltimore, including Hopkins students.
“Especially in relation to the ceasefire event, a lot of white people in Baltimore don’t necessarily engage with the ceasefire in the same way,” Howes said. “As a white Hopkins student, I think a lot of people who share my identities feel like it’s not really their problem... we live here, and we need to be engaging with these issues.”
Correction: The original article stated that there were 343 homicides in Baltimore in 2017. On Friday, Feb. 2, Baltimore Police announced that a double-fatal shooting has been ruled justified, reducing the number of homicides from 343 to 341.
The article also stated that the rate of killings per capita was 55.8 per 100,000 residents. It is now 55.5 per 100,000 residents.
The News-Letter regrets these errors.