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Peace by Piece: Seeking Solutions for Baltimore

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015   

BALTIMORE - Tensions still are running high because of the Freddie Gray death.

Dominique Stevenson, director of the American Friends Service Committee "Friend of a Friend" program, has been in the area since last week, and offered perspective on what happened Monday that led to clashes between police and young people. The backstory, she said, is that fears were running high after students heard rumors at school that white supremacists were going to attack - and then they saw police in riot gear.

"Young folks were put in a very bad position, being locked down for a couple of hours and then sent out to catch buses," she said, "and then being told, 'You can't get on the buses and subway' because transportation had been shut down."

Stevenson said the scene is feeling more calm now, despite some of the images in the media, and called for police to scale back. She said more police presence in a community that has been the target of aggressive policing for years doesn't create a sense of safety.

Stevenson said the fears in the community have to be acknowledged, along with an understanding of the extreme poverty and feeling of hopelessness. At the same time, she said, religious leaders and others can assume a marshal-type role and restore order.

"I think that there are people in the community that can quell the tensions," she said, "and work it out without police."

A march for peace was held Tuesday night. American Friends Service Committee also is working on long-term programs for the region to get resources to children and families in need.


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