On a bustling street corner Friday night in Northwest Baltimore, dozens of people gathered quietly to make an appeal to residents. Their plea could be read on the black-and-white signs they each held – “We must stop killing each other.”
According to The Baltimore Sun, “Occupy the Corner” was the opening salvo in another year of community outreach arranged by the anti-violence group known as 300 Men March. Members will gather every Friday evening, from spring to fall, as they have for the past two years. Their objective – to interact with residents of all ages to work together to make their neighborhoods safer.
“It’s great to have conferences and things like that at hotels and rec centers, but we want to take the energy right to the corners, to send a message that people do care about their communities, are frustrated by the high level of violence,” said Munir Bahar, the group’s organizer.
Bahar said the group focuses on individuals taking personal responsibility for what happens in their neighborhoods. The 300 Men March urges residents to not blame or rely on others, but to work together to create solutions and bring peace to their communities.
“There are a lot of people who want to do something about the violence but don’t necessarily have the outlet,” said Bahar. “That’s why we created ‘Occupy the Corner,’ to give people an outlet, not against police violence but more specifically the day-to-day violence happening in the communities, of young folks gunning other folks down.”
Joining the group on the corner was City Councilman Brandon Scott. He said he hopes the gatherings will help reclaim the Penn North neighborhood from drug dealing.
“When we are engaged in our communities, we have less violence,” Scott said. Last year, the group focused its efforts in the Belair-Edison community in Northeast Baltimore, Scott said, because there had been a spate of homicides there. During the months of activity there, he added, the number of killings dropped. He also drew a distinction between the anti-violence efforts of 300 Men March and the protests against police violence.
“Both issues are valid,” he said. But complaints about police misconduct are no excuse, he added, for failing to take personal responsibility for what goes on in the community.