This U.S. city is fighting gun violence with posters that say 'Thou shalt not kill’

DC campaign Community activists have begun a campaign to place thousands of signs across the city quoting the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” | WTOP

“My family is shattered. My heart is broken,” a Washington, D.C., mother told local news channel NBC4 just after her teenage son was fatally shot last November. 

The 15-year-old boy was one of a record-high number of teens killed in 2022 in Washington, D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). 

“They took my baby boy from me. How do they expect me to go on without my son? I can’t do it,” the victim’s mother said.

‘Thou shalt not kill’

As the nation’s capital is rocked by soaring homicide numbers, community activists have begun a campaign to place thousands of signs across the city quoting the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” 

The campaign is an attempt to “prick the conscience of many and spark conversations and anti-violence actions,” according to its organizers, the D.C. community group Anacostia Coordinating Council.

The office of D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, a Catholic Democrat, will provide 1,000 of the posters, and D.C. restaurant chain owner Andy Shallal will underwrite 2,000 more, WTOP reported.

The signs, which quote the Fifth Commandment in bold white letters against a red background, will be placed in stores, restaurants, homes, and community buildings throughout the city.

A ‘desensitized’ community

The statistics are grim. In 2022, for the second year in a row, the MPD reported over 200 homicides. In 2021, there were 226 murders, marking a 10-year high. 

Last year, the number of homicides decreased to 203, but a greater percentage of the victims were teenagers than in the previous year. At least five children have already been shot in D.C. in 2023, Axios reported.

“There is a percentage of the community that seems to have gotten numb to it — desensitized,” said Anacostia Coordinating Council executive director Philip Pannell. “I’ve talked with some young folks, teenagers, who have already discussed what their funerals are going to be like; this is not the type of future that we want for young people.”

“The message ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is just as powerful and just as relevant in 2023 as it was thousands of years ago,” Pannell said.

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