Outside of Baltimore’s New Shiloh Baptist Church, helicopters hovered over streets lined with residents, Baltimore City police, and National Guard troops armed with rifles, batons, and shields.
Children poured out of nearby buildings in uniforms, some holding signs, others riding bikes. Just two days prior, Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the closure of the city’s schools in the wake of a publicized clash between police and youth that ended with the burning of numerous vehicles and a local CVS store that has become a sort of rallying point for demonstrations against police violence.
But despite a disturbingly heavy troop presence, the streets bore a stark difference from the images of burning buildings in mainstream news. A relative calm took its place. And a sea of men decked out in red and blue, hugging a row of houses near Penn and North, may have been the answer to quelling the crowds that took to the now infamous intersection days prior.
“One of my concerns before I came here was seeing that the Crips, Bloods, Black Guerrilla Family had a truce going on,” rapper and actor Treach told NewsOne at a faith summit held at New Shiloh Baptist Church to discuss the role the youth plays in the fight to end police brutality.
“Those was the ones that calmed down the unrest. They was in the streets. They was getting the youth together, they got them to put the bricks down and stop throwing rocks at the police,” he added.
Last week in an episode of Larry Wilmore’sThe Nightly Show, a gang member told the host that the truce wasn’t formal, albeit still effective.
“We didn’t have a truce or a treaty; we just had men respecting men as men. And we carried it just like that,” the Huffington Post writes.
“The police pull up in their tank… they jumped out with their assault rifles. And I’m like, Damn, this is ‘Call of Duty.’ What the f*ck is going on here,” he explained. “So we ran through the alley to the projects, made sure everyone else was O.K., and went right back to our post and linked arms to make sure nobody got into that store. They set one police car on fire and we stopped them from setting the other one on fire.”
The Naughty by Nature entertainer, referencing news reports that the gangs entered a truce to protect their own communities, challenged officers to do the same in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death — the 25-year-old man unlawfully arrested, shackled, and taken for a “rough ride” in a police van in early April.
Gray died from a spinal cord injury he sustained while in police custody. The six officers involved in his arrest and subsequent death have since been hit with charges ranging from second-degree murder to misconduct.
“If they [the gangs] can have a truce, why is there no truce between the police officers and the community,” Treach told NewsOne.
“[The gangs] are the solution for getting it together. If you’re not in the projects and knowing the pain…if you’re not in the street and knowing what the youth is going through, you’re not going to know when it’s going to pop off.”
During the faith summit, hosted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Treach stressed the important of including the youth and the neighborhood gangs in building the community and changing the trajectory of Baltimore’s storied past of poverty, police violence, and disenfranchisement.
“We here to show them that we can get together and we can rebuild the town, we can rebuild the trust, but we need the city and the government to be a part of that,” he told NewsOne.
“It’s nothing for the kids to do. They’re mad.”
But without cooperation from city officials, rebuilding Baltimore may have consequences.
“It ain’t no more turning the other cheek,” Treach said. “If it pops off in more than one city at the same time, there ain’t enough National Guard. It’s going come to your town real soon if you don’t help it,” he warned.
Watch NewsOne’s exclusive interview with Treach in the video above.