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As Homicides Continue to Mount, Baltimore Attempts Violence-Free Weekend

Baltimore is trying to go 72 hours without a homicide this weekend in the wake of a violent year that has already led to 208 murders through Thursday night.

The citizen-led effort comes after Baltimore’s embattled police department reassigned 150 officers to Baltimore’s more dangerous areas with little to show for it.

The 72-hour cease-fire proposed by a collection of activists went into effect at midnight Friday and is supposed to last through Sunday.

“We understand that this is not what normal should be, and we deserve something better. Looking at each other and saying, ‘We deserve peace, for three whole days’ — that’s powerful,” said Erricka Bridgeford, a professional conflict mediator who is one of the organizers of the cease-fire, whose motto is “Nobody Kill Anybody.”

“We didn’t come up with anything that was brand new, but we just had to make a decision that we could at least try,” Bridgeford said.

Bridgeford said the effort needed to be made.

“We don’t think this is a cure,” she said. “We don’t think this will even necessarily stop violence that weekend, but we know that some people have made promises that they won’t, and that just might save somebody’s life.”

She said the community and the police have an uneasy relationship. That relationship was severely strained after the 2015 Freddie Gray case, in which a young black man died in police custody. Baltimore police have recently been accused of plating evidence.

However, the police said they want to be partners with the community

“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing,” said police spokesman T.J. Smith. “We want officers to do what they’re expected to do, and the community wants officers to do what they’re expected to do. But we also all want people to stop harming each other, especially with guns.”

Jonathan Smith, former chief of the Justice Department’s special litigation section of the Civil Rights Division, said that unless the community partners with the police, crimes are never solved.

“This is a real opportunity for dialogue with police to occur and address ways that policing creates circumstances for violence,” he said. “There are many neighborhoods in Baltimore that are over-policed and under-served. Kids are being swept off the streets at the same time that you can’t solve a homicide because you can’t get anyone to talk about what they saw.”

The weekend did not get off to a great start.

Late Thursday, a taxi driver shot a passenger in the chest and robbed him, police said. The victim is expected to survive, police said.