A crowd of protesters took to the streets of Baltimore again Thursday evening.
At the foot of Baltimore City Hall a temporary fence stood between U.S. National Guard and citizens. The prevailing message echoed off the walls of the historic building: ‘All Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter.’
“How many of y’all been inside a cruiser? I know I have,” one woman hollered into a bullhorn.
“I have too, baby,” some in the crowd responded.
“You got a million police standing around us,” she continued. “Not one of them have the courage to say, I’m not here to hurt you … I’m here to protect you. I’m here to save your life. Not none of them have the courage to say that.”
Following Monday’s unrest and the National Guard’s arrival, downtown Baltimore seemed to carry on with business as usual. Neighborhoods were quiet, residents went back to work, and late night bars and restaurants swallowed the nightly curfews in stride.
But, meanwhile, community centers around Baltimore buzzed with a refreshed sense of direction.
Coalitions, like Stokey Project, Baltimore United, and 300 Men Project, are building on the work they have been doing for years: bringing a voice to the countless underserved neighborhoods in the Baltimore Metro Area.
Lawrence Grandpre of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle says the struggles the people are desperately trying to voice are the result of both deeply embedded racism and Baltimore’s long-failing economy.
“[We want to] push the conversation toward institutional policies that produce these massive areas of hopelessness in the city,” says Grandpre.
Recalling the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Grandpre explained peace is not the mere absence of violence. Peace means having the conditions in which people can live fulfilled lives:
“If people are calling for peace, we need to push the narrative toward policies and political changes that are actually going to give people the conditions to deal with structural violence.”
Thursday’s protest march dissolved peacefully under a sheet of rain, but the cries for justice to Freddie Gray and change in Baltimore resounded long after.