By Melissa Lauber and Erik Alsgaard
Fire from burning cars lit some of Baltimore’s streets Monday night, April 27. Looters seemed to strike indiscriminately. As darkness began to fall that night, fear of what lay ahead between rioters and the police force grew.
The Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi experienced some of this fear. But when you’re afraid, “you pray and you march on,” she said.
Moore-Koikoi, superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District, prayed and then joined the city’s other clergy in a march for peace. Putting themselves between bottle-throwing demonstrators and lines of police officers with pepper spray, the pastors hit the streets.
The goal, Moore-Koikoi said, was to ease tensions and bring calm to people on the streets. Local newscasters noted the success of their efforts.
Along the way, Moore-Koikoi learned she had a guardian angel of sorts – a young man who belonged to the Crips gang. He and other gang members, some from two other rival gangs, made sure neither the police nor the rioters bothered the pastors.
When they returned to New Shiloh Baptist Church, the pastors invited the gang members in for conversation. “We ended up confessing that we had not done enough to engage them in the past,” Moore-Koikoi said. “We promised future conversations.”
It was one of those surreal and unlikely moments that stuck out in the darkness of the day’s event.