Neither the heavy rain nor the cold that hovered over Baltimore could dampen the spirits of the community leaders, residents, politicians, clergy and police officers who marched through Fulton Heights on April 12 for a rally to make the streets safer.
Billed the “Enough is Enough” rally, the event was part of a seven week police-citizen effort to address the recent spate in crime in West Baltimore.
Participants included Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, City Councilman Nick Mosby and Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, former president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP.
The march started at the corner of W. North Avenue and N. Fulton Avenue. Rev. Keith Bailey, president of the Fulton Heights Community Association, led the group in a prayer to acknowledge the residents who had been victimized by crime.
“The march will drive the drug dealers and people in the community doing wrong out,” he said. “We will bring all the churches in the community out and bring them together and it will bring everyone else out of their homes to join us. We will walk and pray because blood stains are on the concrete where people have gotten shot.”
As the rally got underway, Mosby and Batts energized the crowd by encouraging them to chant, scream and sing to help draw neighbors out of their homes to join the rally.
“Today is a new day. We will show…that these streets are ours,” exclaimed Mosby as the crowd erupted in cheers and amens. “It is critically important for us to come together as community leaders and change this.”
Russell said he is confident the marches will decrease crime in West Baltimore by promoting engagement and visibility. In January 2009, he started a similar initiative in East Baltimore while serving as a commander in the district. The area, for generations, has been among the city’s most violent, Russell said.
“We’re taking those same strategies and principles and we’re spreading them citywide,” he said. “We’re asking churches to come outside of their four walls.
That ain’t doing us no good. It’s not helping our community that’s dying outside,” said Russell, who is also an assistant pastor. “This is a way of us re-engaging the community because the churches have gotten away from that.”
As neighbors who lived in the community gathered, a group of women—Roxane Prettyman and Rev. Ruby Purnell—who have both lived in the community for more than 50 years, and Inez Robb, who has lived there for nearly 30 years, – said they have seen the neighborhood change over the years, but are optimistic the walk and other initiatives can bring an evolution.
“There was nothing but Jews in the neighborhood when I first moved here. You went to the market and there was no violence,” said Purnell. “In the last 15 years, it was gotten worse. We are community people. We participate in the community and we’re concerned about our young people with drugs and alcohol. We’re trying to find a better way to stop the violence.”
Prettyman said leaders of the community must stand together against violence and disrespect.
As the crowd marched through the streets, Major Robert Smith stopped in front of corner stores, stoops and alleys to talk about various murders that occurred in the neighborhood. Members of the clergy prayed in front of those stops as the rain poured from the sky.
The rain eventually cut the walk short. Organizers will rotate the rallies to various high-crime locations around the city.
The next rally is scheduled for April 19.