Amid recent gun violence that the police chief has called “completely unacceptable,” local community leaders are hoping an age-old commandment, printed on a red and white cardboard sign, will help stem the bloodshed.

“The poster is going to simply say “Thou shalt not kill,” said Philip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, a nonprofit organization based in Ward 8 in D.C.

Pannell will join community activists and leaders mostly from east-of-the-Anacostia River neighborhoods in a launch event Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Busboys and Poets restaurant at 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE.

Pannell said he’s hoping the signs espousing the sixth commandment will reinvigorate discussion about stopping gun violence.

The red-and-white posters will be distributed to the public. (Courtesy Anacostia Coordinating Council)

“There is a percentage of the community that seems to have gotten numb to it — desensitized,” said Pannell. “Let’s be honest, most people do not attend community meetings about violence.”

Pannell said this is not the first time the “Thou shalt not kill” message has been used in the District.

“Around 30 years ago, at the height of the crack epidemic, when we were also experiencing violence and homicides, then at-large Council member William Lightfoot printed-up some ‘Thou shalt not kill’ posters and put them throughout the city,” Pannell recalled.

Pannell said the grassroots effort is “something I think most people in the city can agree with, and is something they can support.”

Pannell said the D.C. mayor’s office is providing 1,000 posters that are set to be delivered Monday, and Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets, is underwriting the costs of printing 2,000 posters.

After Tuesday’s news conference, posters will be available to the public and can be picked up in the lobby of Busboys and Poets.

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

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