Ten years ago, an enormous march on City Hall, prompted by a pair of high-profile killings, crystallized a feeling that New Orleans' murder rate after Hurricane Katrina was out of control.

Helen Hill, a filmmaker, had just been killed in her home in Faubourg Marigny. Dinerral Shavers, a drummer for the Hot 8 Brass Band, had been shot to death while driving in the 6th Ward.

Neither killing seemed to spark much of a reaction from then-Mayor Ray Nagin, who had spoken during his 2006 re-election campaign about "a little uptick in the murder rate."

On Wednesday, a smaller crowd stood in a circle at the spot where the protesters converged 10 years ago, reading aloud the names of more than 2,000 people who have been killed in New Orleans and its suburbs in the past decade.

The memorial was organized by Silence Is Violence, a victims’ advocacy group that was a major force behind the January 2007 march.

Instead of fiery speeches, a series of speakers simply read off a list of names, ages and causes of death. They stood next to a Mitchell Gaudet sculpture that represented each 2016 killing with a broken glass column.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and mayoral spokesman Tyronne Walker all took turns reading out names.

Another speaker was Deborah Reeder, whose son Chester was shot to death near a parade in Algiers in May 2009. Reeder paused before she began reading her section of the long list of victims, her son's name among them.

"To look down and see his name on the piece of paper is a little tough, but I felt like I needed to do it," Reeder said later. "It actually gave me the courage to do it, because I knew he was right there with me."

She said that too often people ask what a victim did wrong instead of acknowledging the painful fallout from a violent death.

"It helps with the grief, to know that something you say to someone may help their journey," she said.

The killing of Chester “Tootie” Reeder III remains unsolved.

So does the March 2016 killing of another young man, Arron Thompson, who was shot to death at age 19 while making a delivery to an Algiers gas station for his beer distribution company.

Thompson’s mother, Angela, stood near the readers holding two pictures of her son from high school. She said she could not muster the strength to read her son’s name in public.

"Just to hear all these names and to hear the word 'shot,' 'homicide' ... it’s just awful because that’s all you’re hearing," she said. "The violence. The violence.” 

Since the march in 2007, the city’s population has swelled, and a new mayor, Mitch Landrieu, has made efforts to halt violence a cornerstone of his agenda.

But the city’s murder rate remains stubbornly high. The NOPD will report 174 murders to federal authorities for the year 2016. Violent crime is likely to figure prominently in this fall’s race to pick Landrieu’s replacement.

Baty Landis, a co-founder of Silence Is Violence and organizer of the 2007 march, said the criminal justice system now does a better job of recognizing the needs of victims and survivors.

Landis acknowledged frustration with the city’s steadily high rate of violence. She said that even if the city had only two homicides, however, she would still return to City Hall’s steps.

"It keeps us honest," she said. "We hope that it reminds anyone who comes, and the broader public, that these are not just statistics. They are lives."

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432