`Stop the killing,' city marchers demand

Activists urge West Baltimore neighborhood to take action against spate of homicides

January 28, 2007|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,Sun reporter

Shouting, "Stop the killing, end the violence," activists marched along Dolphin Street near the McCulloh Homes complex yesterday, pleading for residents of the West Baltimore neighborhood to join the fight to end the city's recent spate of bloodshed.

"Twenty-four murders in 24 days is unacceptable," said Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"When are we going to get upset about this?" he roared into a bullhorn. "Will it take the murder of your son or your daughter? There are 1,200 residents in McCulloh homes. You gotta get outraged. What does it take for us to get outraged?"

The NAACP organized the rally after the killing Tuesday of Ronald Lewis, 34, of the 500 block of Dolphin St. The slaying occurred just minutes after the NAACP adjourned from its monthly meeting a block away at Union Baptist Church at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street.

The demonstration began with a brief march around the McCulloh Homes complex and ended with a rally in a courtyard.

"You bring about awareness and you apply pressure on the perpetrators," said the Rev. Willie Ray, a minister at the church, explaining the purpose of the rally. "And you show the community how to fight back."

About 50 people attended the rally, including members of the substance abuse recovery program I Can't We Can and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Speakers included Del. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat and a mayoral candidate, and Israel Cason, founder of I Can't We Can, who is planning to run for City Council.

"We can't police our way out of this," Cason said. "We need to stop looking at symptoms and start looking at us. No one is coming here to change us. It's up to us to change our own conduct. We got to educate our children. We need to teach them how to get jobs."

Shawon Reed came from her home in Belair-Edison for the rally. She said the effects of the recent killings are felt in all neighborhoods.

"I'm tired of turning on the news every day and seeing our children dying," said Reed, who chairs the Belair-Edison ACORN chapter.

Participants also expressed frustrated by what they said was a lack of action by city officials.

"I'm outraged at the violence and outraged by the lack of outrage from other elected officials," Carter said. "In most cities, 24 murders in 24 days would sound an alarm that we are in crisis."

Cheatham said he planned to make an effort to talk to community residents each time there is a city murder. He said he also intended to use the rallies as a tool to recruit mentors from the neighborhoods struggling with crime. The NAACP is working with a number of outreach organizations to recruit 5,000 men to work with youth.

"It's clear the elected officials are not taking the lead and coming into these communities," Cheatham said. "We need to step up."

kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

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