NATION

As Baltimore curfew ends, celebratory crowds peacefully gather

Baltimore's mayor has lifted a citywide curfew six days after the death of Freddie Gray sparked riots

At least 486 people have been arrested and 113 police officers injured in the racial unrest that has gripped Baltimore, police said Sunday, as peaceful demonstrations continued and the city lifted its 10 p.m. curfew.

On Saturday, 42 adults and four juveniles were arrested on what was the final night of the city’s controversial curfew, Baltimore Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said during a Sunday afternoon news conference, which was held as a rally with hundreds of people peacefully wound down outside City Hall.

“Over the weekend we’ve seen peace,” said Kowalczyk, who did not give a breakdown on the charges involved in Saturday night's arrests. “Our focus is on asking people to continue to be peaceful.”

The 486 arrests represent the number since April 23. 

Defense attorneys and civil-liberties advocates have questioned the legality of many of those arrests, alleging that police denied those who were arrested medical care and held them in overcrowded cells. Last Wednesday, 101 people were released without charges after spending 48 hours in jail.

Kowalczyk did not give more detailed information about the officers’ injuries. He said police would continue to stay on the streets in case of further unrest.

After five nights, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted the curfew that required residents to stay indoors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

"Effective immediately, I have rescinded my order instituting a city-wide curfew," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement Sunday morning. "My goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary."

The curfew was first enforced a day after looting and arson took place throughout Baltimore following the wake for 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal injury sustained in police custody last month.

Many Baltimore residents had become irritated with the curfew, and with the mayor, after multiple days of peaceful protests and State's Atty. Marilyn S. Mosby had announced criminal charges against all six police officers involved in Gray's death.

“My No. 1 priority in instituting a curfew was to ensure the public peace, safety, health and welfare of Baltimore citizens,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It was not an easy decision, but one I felt was necessary to help our city restore calm.”

There are still 3,000 Maryland National Guard members, standing in tan camouflage uniforms and armed with assault rifles, spread across Baltimore’s streets.

Still, on a breezy, sunny day, the city continued the process of returning to normality.

Mondawmin Mall, where looters hauled away thousands of dollars worth of merchandise Monday evening, reopened in west Baltimore for the first time Sunday afternoon.

Many stores in the mall remained closed, some walls and kiosks bare, while others were covered with clothes and tarp, according to the Baltimore Sun.

But the piles of glass and debris from last week’s looting had been cleared away.

"It doesn't look like anything really happened in here," said Tamica Constantino, who came to shop for clothes at a store called Olive Olé only to discover it was still closed, the newspaper reported. "They cleaned up well."

Although the city police continued to maintain a large visible presence nearby, where much of the unrest has been centered, the number of officers was far fewer. Those that were there no longer wore the intimidating black riot gear they used last week.

A large crowd gathered in front of City Hall, many dancing and singing to festive drum beats.  

At the intersection of North and Pennsylvania avenues -- the daily gathering spot for the protesters since Monday -- the mess of shattered windows, rocks, and other remains from the unrest were long gone.

Traffic passed through uninterrupted and people came and went, walking to neighbor’s homes, corner shops or grocery stores.

Many attended church, heeding Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s call for a statewide "Day of Prayer and Peace,” following last week’s nonstop demonstrations.

“As we begin to rebuild and restore, let us renew our faith in the true spirit of our city and its people,” he said in a statement. “I pray that [Sunday] will be a day of reflection and will serve as a foundation for how we all conduct ourselves in the days and months to come.”

Inside the massive New Shiloh Baptist Church in west Baltimore, the morning light streamed through the orange-tinted stained glass windows as pastor Harold A. Carter Jr. preached to a rapt audience from the pulpit.

The church is where Gray’s funeral was held less than a week earlier.

“Unless one is sleeping like Rip Van Winkle or under a rock ... everyone is mindful of all that has been transpiring here in our city,” Carter said. “In spite of the aftermath of Monday evening and into Tuesday … God is still watching over us.”

Minutes later, the crowd -- the men dressed in pristine suits and women in bright dresses -- held one another's hands as they sang “Amazing Grace.” Carter said there were challenges ahead, but they will be overcome.

“The worst thing anybody can tell us is that we can’t,” he said to an applauding crowd. “We don’t handle ‘can’t’ well. Saying ‘can’t’ to us is like saying ‘sic ’em’ to a dog. When you say ‘can’t’ to us, you better get out of way ... because that’s the kind of spirit that’s inside of us.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

4:10 p.m. This article was updated with information about those who were arrested and the scene at Mondawmin Mall.

2:48 p.m. This article has been updated with the new number of arrests.

10:28 a.m.: This article has been updated with reporting on a church service and Mondawmin Mall's reopening.

8:52 a.m.: This article has been updated with staff reporting.

This article was originally posted at 8:03 a.m.

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