Activist Seeks Solutions to 143 Unsolved D.C. Murders

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Washington, D.C. grassroots organizer Philip Pannell stores a grim collection of police department fliers in his basement office, each representing someone slain in the city since 2010, the Washington Post reports.

They show the names and faces of 143 homicide victims — all of them black, most of them men. Few have been spoken for by the justice system, as only 10 cases have been closed. The fliers are pasted to cardboard panels, a haunting project that Pannell has carried to civic groups, community meetings, churches and even a fashion show in a quest to remind his neighbors that slayings should not go unsolved and to build political support to demand action from city government. He hopes these panels of death will prompt witnesses to speak out, the guilty to confess, and the city to launch a cable-access program to address what he sees as an epidemic of silence.

 “The purpose of this is just to let folks know we don’t live in a community where people get away with murder,” Pannell said. “You really don’t see these fliers displayed in the community. We have accepted this. We are numb.” he said. Pannell, 65, is a grass-roots political organizer who has espoused many causes. Crime in the city is a problem he has long been concerned about, but the 2015 fatal shooting of journalist Charnice Milton as she waited at a bus stop reignited Pannell’s desire for change. “There is a commonality to the kid having no respect for the environment leaving trash on the street and leaving a body in the street,” Pannell said. Milton interviewed Pannell many times, and he found the 27-year-old community reporter to be smart, engaging and caring about the important issues in the city. Her killing remains unsolved.


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