As Baltimore mayor lifts curfew, National Guard begins pullout – Washington Post

The citywide curfew was lifted, the National Guard began disappearing from street corners and shoppers trickled back into Mondawmin Mall on Sunday as Baltimore looked forward to rhythm and routine after a week of unrest.

“My goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) said. “I believe we have reached that point today.”

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) declared, “The city is safe.”

He said that troops had begun withdrawing Sunday morning but that it would take “a couple of days” to remove the 3,000 National Guard members and 1,000 police officers from across Maryland and neighboring states that joined Baltimore City police over the past week.

Vans carrying National Guard troops and police officers could be seen heading out of the city Sunday afternoon.

The 10 p.m. curfew started Tuesday as officials tried to stem violence that erupted after Freddie Gray’s funeral a day earlier.

The 25-year-old died a week after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody. On Friday, the Baltimore state’s attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, filed ­charges, ranging from second-degree murder to assault, against six officers connected with Gray’s arrest and transport. The union representing the officers has denied they are responsible for Gray’s death.

Sunday was billed as a day of peace, prayer and reconciliation.

“We will get better and we will get through this,” Rawlings-Blake said Sunday, standing outside the reopened Mondawmin Mall, scene of looting and violence last Monday. “A lot of the unrest has been settled, but that doesn’t mean the work doesn’t continue.”

Hundreds of people gathered at City Hall on Sunday afternoon for a peaceful prayer rally organized by the faith community. Later, an impromptu celebration broke out.

But the city remained cautious. Residents and officials acknowledged that recovery would not happen overnight. And they worried that a repeat of last week’s violence could reignite with the verdict in the trials of the officers charged in Gray’s death.

As of Sunday, police had arrested 486 people during the week of violence and protests, Baltimore police spokesman Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said. Forty-six of those were arrested Saturday night for violating the curfew, he said.

Kowalczyk said 113 officers had been injured.

Police will remain on the streets in coming days to monitor crowds, but Kowalczyk urged residents to maintain peace.

“As we’ve seen through this weekend, Baltimore is capable of coming together and expressing concern in a manner that is peaceful,” he said.

The recovery facing the city is daunting. More than 200 businesses — most of them minority-owned and many of them un­insured — were destroyed in last Monday’s riots, Hogan said after attending church services in West Baltimore.

“The mayor and I talked, and we both agree that it’s time to get the community back to normal again,” Hogan said as he left St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Gray grew up. “It has been a very hard week, but we kept everybody safe.”

Thousands of people took to the streets last week to protest Gray’s death. Demonstrations changed from riots and outrage Monday to celebratory marches and dancing in the streets Friday when charges against the six police officers were announced. Sunday’s gatherings had a spiritual tone.

At a church located about a mile south of an intersection were a CVS was looted and burned last Monday, National Guard troops put down their rifles, and some took Communion with congregants.

The Rev. Joanne Jackson of Mount Pisgah CME Church began services by thanking members of the National Guard. She then moved the last half-hour of services outdoors so that other troops and police officers stationed across the street could hear.

After a choir sang, congregants exchanged handshakes and hugs with troops before they all linked hands across metal barriers to pray.

Like the mayor, Jackson noted that as the city returns to its routine, the healing is far from done. She promised that the church would directly engage with the community as it looks to the future.

“Mount Pisgah . . . cannot do business as usual,” Jackson said. “We sit in the middle of much anger, frustration, pain and fear. Our church is in the dead center in what is happening in this community.”

In the pews of Southern Baptist Church on North Chester Street, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R), Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) and Baltimore City Council President Jack Young (D) listened to the Rev. Donte Hickman preach a sermon titled “Burnt Down, but Not Burnt Out.”

Southern Baptist is across the street from a $16 million senior citizens center that burned to rubble last Monday. Before the fire, the church had vowed to help renovate the building. On Sunday, members renewed that commitment.

“We are going to be here for you,” Rutherford said. “We are not going anywhere. We are going to be working on issues that have plagued this community for a long time.”

After church, many people, still in their Sunday finery, headed to the plaza outside City Hall where hundreds of people gathered for a nearly two-hour rally. Many attendees wore T-shirts emblazoned with the name of their church, and a line of men in suits represented the Nation of Islam. They sang hymns between speeches, and two men from Texas carted around a 12-foot wooden cross on a wheel.

At Mondawmin Mall, where a week ago looters could be seen running out of stores with bags of merchandise and rioters threw rocks at police, many of the stores reopened for business.

Employees at the Target store greeted each other jubilantly. The store had been closed for five days.

“Good to see you,” one young man said, high-fiving several others in red Target shirts. “Been a long time.”

Although Target suffered no damage, looters gutted neighboring shops, store manager Ellie Raabe said as workers stocked the shelves.

“It almost kind of feels like we’re back to normal now,” even though it will take a while for the community to feel truly secure, Raabe said.

Employees at Target continued to receive paychecks even though the store had been closed since Monday. But workers at smaller shops were not as lucky.

After helping a customer select new hair extensions at the nearby at Beauty Outlet, employee Ho Young, 39, lamented the effect of the riot and store’s closure.

“I could have worked all this week,” Young said. “We have to pay the rent.”

Insurance won’t cover the losses because looters didn’t physically destroy the store, which is owned by his cousin, Young said.

And though the mall was open Sunday, he said business wasn’t what it should be.

“Today’s supposed to be our busiest day,” said Young, who said his friend’s liquor store and father-in-law’s carryout business also were looted.

Patricia Moody Jefferson and her husband, Alex Jefferson III, were among the shoppers who returned to the mall.

While they stopped for lunch with their 4-year-old, they debated whether violence could return to the city.

Would rioting return if the officers are acquitted?

“Do you think it’s going to be like Rodney King?” Patricia Moody Jefferson asked.

“I don’t think so,” Alex Jefferson said. “The leadership will be poised to have whatever forces in place to prevent any potential happenings.”

“I’m really not sure,” his wife said. “Honestly, I really don’t know.”

While the city craved routine, residents made sure to call for a new kind of normal — one that will confront Baltimore’s economic disparities and concerns over the police department’s interactions with the community.

Sunday was about a city looking to its future.

Archbishop William E. Lori led the 10:45 a.m. Mass at the church where Hogan sat with his wife and daughter in the front row.

Before a congregation of about 300, Lori urged the community to come together, not just to repair Baltimore but to make it better.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Lori said. “In the coming days and months, the national news cameras will mostly disappear. Baltimore will fade from the headlines. The temptation will be to go back to business as usual.”

Amanda Erickson and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.