Only 500 people showed up two years ago and only 600 last year, but the Rev. Willie Ray is confident 10,000 people in Baltimore will join hands today in a rally against violence in the city.
Mr. Ray is sure this year is the year Love Hands Across Baltimore will create a human chain uniting East and West Baltimore across 55 blocks of North Avenue.
"We feel it will be different this time because people are tired of the violence and scared of who will die next," said Mr. Ray, chairman and founder of the non-profit Baltimore Coalition to Stop the Killing and its Save Another Youth counseling center.
"It's literally taken three years, 305 homicides in '90, grandmothers, bank tellers and young children -- like 6-year-old Tiffany Smith -- being murdered for everyone to stop and notice things aren't right," Mr. Ray said.
He said the rally against crime will also be boosted by input from more groups. "Save Another Youth used to set up this event alone," he said. "This year, we've recruited about 35 to 40 different organizations that are bringing people to the program."
Eric March, 39, the coordinator of Love Hands, also was optimistic. "We didn't have the city behind us or churches and businesses to help us like this year's," he said. "They've responded much better this year, and I think we will be able to complete the chain."
Love Hands started in 1989 to call attention to the increasing problems of violence and drugs, to unite people fighting the problems and to tell people that they are not alone in the fight, Mr. March said.
"I've buried too many people who have been murdered," said Mr. March, who is also general manager of March Funeral Homes. "We want Baltimore to see that we care about our neighborhood, and we're going to prove it this Sunday."
Participants will gather at 1:30 p.m. along the almost five miles of North Avenue from Hilton Street to Milton Avenue. At 2 p.m., everyone will clasp hands in a minute of silence and reflection on those who have been murdered and on the future of the city.
Afterward, participants will meet at the school administration building at North Avenue and Calvert Street to organize a plan for residents and police to work together against crime.