- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

An estimated 50 D.C. residents gathered at Freedom Plaza yesterday to call for a “murder cease-fire” in honor of Father’s Day.

“We want no murders in D.C. in honor of Father’s Day,” said Kenneth Barnes, who leads Reaching Out to Others Together, an advocacy group for victims.

Mr. Barnes organized ROOT after his adult son was murdered in September 2001.

Mr. Barnes said he worked with police until his son’s killer was caught and given a life sentence.

Dozens of others who had gathered at Freedom Plaza yesterday told similar stories of friends and family members who were victims of homicide.

“I am losing everyone I know to two places,” said Donald Steveason, 20. “Either the graveyard or prison.”

Mr. Steveason wore a black shirt with photos of a friend who was murdered and with the letters R.I.P. written near the collar.

“I have a T-shirt like this for everyone I know, and I am tired of wearing them,” he said.

Also at the gathering were members from anti-gun group Million Mom March, and two other anti-violence groups, Latino Fatherhood and Manhood Project, and Cease Fire … Don’t Smoke the Brothers Inc. Members of Cease Fire distributed fliers and talked with community members prior to this weekend. They pleaded with residents to remember Father’s Day and stop the killing.

“[Lawmakers] can’t help us. We are the people who can help us,” Mr. Steveason said.

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, read a proclamation to recognize yesterday as the first annual “Father’s Day Murder Free D.C. Day of Remembrance.”

The proclamation said that an estimated 3,100 lives have been lost to murders in the District during the past decade.

Montoria Freeland, representing a group called Survivors Taking A Righteous Stand Against Homicide, held a picture of her son and his father — both victims of two different homicides.

Ms. Freeland now cares for the 4-year-old daughter of her murdered son.

“There are no fathers, no fathers, no fathers,” she said.

The residents at the gathering said they aren’t waiting for new laws: They are taking their pleas directly to their communities to stop the bloodshed.

Author Ty Gray-el read excerpts from his book, “Breath of My Ancestors,” to suggest ways to stop the homicides.

“If one man would be so bold as to embrace the Gospel, think what the strength of a million men can do,” he said.

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