Baltimore protests largely peaceful; Mayor lifts curfew
BALTIMORE — Things could be returning to normal in Baltimore: After a night of relatively peaceful protests, the city lifted its curfew, the National Guard is preparing its exit and a mall that had been a flashpoint in the riots has been reopened.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that her “goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary.”
The mayor spoke following a tour of Mondawmin Mall, which reopened Sunday after recovering from rioting that police said was spawned by social media rumors of a “purge” following Gray’s death.
Because of the improving conditions in the city, she said, the National Guard will be wrapping up its operations, but don’t expect the troops to leave immediately.
“It’s not like you flip a switch,” she said. “They have to unwind their operations, and they’re going to do that over this next week.”
Asked if she thought it was premature to send the military home, she replied, “It will either be too long or too early. You’ll let me know afterward.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, speaking at a separate news conference, said it “will take a couple days, maybe about 72 hours” to complete the drawdown, at which point the state of emergency can be lifted.
“We’ve already started to withdraw. It will take a little while. We brought 4,000 people in,” he said.
Two hundred Baltimore businesses — many of them minority-owned and many lacking insurance — were lost in Monday’s protests alone, Hogan said, acknowledging it “will take a little while to get back to normal, but let’s get people back to normal, get people back in the city to visit devastated shops.”
The majority of stores inside Mondawmin reopened Sunday, Rawlings-Blake said, declaring it “a great day for this community.”
Protests, some arrests
The announcements came after hundreds of Baltimore residents rallied peacefully Saturday following the arrest a day earlier of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.
Marchers converged on City Hall after walking from the Gilmore Homes housing project, where Gray was arrested last month.
Demonstrators, some carrying signs with messages like “Justice for Freddie Gray” and “It is right to rebel,” moved through the streets of Baltimore to War Memorial Plaza outside City Hall, where hundreds of others gathered for the rally, which had the atmosphere of a block party.
A biracial couple, Devan Sutherland and Joe Savage, attended the rally with their 7-year-old son, Liam.
“It means everything to me and my family,” Sutherland said. “I was born and raised here. I care a lot about my city. I love my city.”
The rally, organized by the Washington-based Black Lawyers for Justice, came after a week of demonstrations, some marred by arson and looting.
A smaller number of demonstrators remained in the streets after the city curfew went into effect at 10 p.m. Some protesters were arrested a short time later.
The curfew, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., was announced fewer than three hours before it went into effect.
Maryland National Guard Gen. Linda Singh said she was eager to send her troops home.
“I want to make sure we can close out tonight in a safe, peaceful … manner,” she said.
National Guard troops and police stood near the plaza Saturday, but the scene differed from clashes between officers and protesters earlier in the week.
“What really touched me was hearing the youth speak and telling America that they are not thugs,” demonstrator Daudi Henderson said. “We can’t demonize the victim.”
Hogan urged protesters to remain nonviolent.
“The right to demonstrate is a fundamental part of our society, but damaging property or putting innocent bystanders in danger will not be tolerated,” he said.
In response to the unrest earlier in the week, Hogan said 3,000 National Guard troops, 578 state troopers and 432 law enforcement officers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey had been deployed throughout the city.
City prosecutor identifies six officers
Six police officers have been charged in the death of Gray last month, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday.
The 25-year-old died after suffering “a severe and critical neck injury” while being transported “handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained” inside a police van, she said. It is against police policy to transport a prisoner without proper restraints such as a seat belt.
The police union called for an independent prosecutor, saying Mosby has conflicts of interests. They also criticized her for not waiting until police were done with their inquiry.
“We are disappointed in the apparent rush to judgment, given the fact that the investigation into this matter has not been concluded,” said Gene Ryan, president of the police union. “Our officers, like every other American, are entitled to due process.”
The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police said the officers did nothing wrong.
“No officer injured Mr. Gray, caused harm to Mr. Gray, and they are truly saddened by his death,” said Michael Davey, an attorney for the union.