The Rouge in Baton Rouge now means bloody.
Seven people have been killed by gunfire in my hometown this week, making 73 murders so far this year. In 2016, the Louisiana capital totaled 62 shooting deaths.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III cited the Mississippi River town's "brutal summer," telling the Baton Rouge Advocate he hoped the killings were "a peak, not a trend."
He made that comment the day before the seventh killing occurred.
Several of the slayings, which looked like gang warfare to this distant reader, occurred in the Old South Baton Rouge neighborhood, also known as "the Bottom." Just north of LSU, the once vibrant black neighborhood declined after Interstate 10 sliced the community in half in the early 1960s.
Once civil rights leaders and famous black entertainers flocked to the community, also the heart of Baton Rouge's civil rights movement. Historic McKinley High, visited by President Obama a few years ago, remains a place of pride. In response to the violence earlier this week, McKinley alums organized a peace march through the neighborhood.
LSU through the years has made fitful efforts to reach out to the community, where Tigers running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Derrius Guice grew up. All of the university's plans to help the neighborhood fizzled out.
Despite Southern gentility, charming neighborhoods, the lovely LSU campus and Huey Long's state capitol, Baton Rouge has always been a rough place, prone to violent eruptions. During my childhood, labor unrest and industrial sabotage were constant.
The northside refineries and chemical plants have made the city a leader in cancer deaths. While the city's residents treat each other with easy-going courtesy, and black and whites easily mingle in stores and restaurants, racial segregation appears intractable.
The predominantly black northside suffers economically, although a positive note was struck this week with the reopening of historic Istrouma High. The predominantly white, traffic-clogged southside glows with medical facilities, trendy shops, nice parks, fine restaurants, and exclusive subdivisions.
The seven killings this week look like the latest episodes in the gang slayings that arrived in Baton Rouge with the migration of New Orleans residents north after Hurricane Katrina. I hope Millar is right, but fear the violence is not a peak or a trend, but a permanent reality.