Baltimore lifts curfew; relief to many after unrest in Maryland city – Reuters


BALTIMORE (Reuters) – The mayor of Baltimore on Sunday lifted a night curfew imposed on the city last week after a spate of looting and arson that followed the funeral of a young black man who died from injuries suffered while in the police custody.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she believed sufficient calm had returned to allow her to end the 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, which went into effect last Tuesday after protests over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray turned violent on Monday.

“My goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary,” the mayor said. “I believe we have reached that point today.”

Speaking in front of a mall that was looted on Monday, the mayor also said the Maryland National Guard would begin withdrawing from the streets over the next week. As of Saturday, there were about 2,600 troops helping law enforcement officers patrol the city and enforce the curfew, the guard said.

The surprise announcement on Friday by the city’s chief prosecutor that she was bringing criminal charges against the six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest has helped to defuse outrage over his death.

The protests in the mostly black city of 625,000 have been a reprise of nationwide anger that erupted last year after the deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with police in Missouri, New York and elsewhere.

“What we saw over the past few days is not just the resiliency of our city, but also our communities coming together,” the mayor told a news conference, when asked if how confident she was that the time was right to lift the curfew. “We want to heal our city.”

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, welcomed the decision by the Democratic mayor, who had faced criticism for what some saw as a slow initial response to Monday’s violence. Hogan was among those who expressed concern over the financial impact of the curfew, which forced bars and restaurants to close early.

BUSINESSES HIT BY CURFEW

Baltimore’s downtown Inner Harbor district, a tourist destination, resembled a ghost town on Friday and Saturday nights, normally the busiest nights of the week.

Twitter instantly lit up with reaction: “Baltimore curfew is seriously hurting businesses glad to see it lifted,” wrote someone using the Twitter name God First.

But many tweets accused authorities of having applied the curfew selectively and mostly in black neighborhoods.

The looting and arson on Monday contrasted with what had been mostly peaceful protests in the Maryland city since Gray’s death a week after his April 12 arrest.

People at a rally in Baltimore on Saturday praised the decision by prosecutor Marilyn Mosby to charge one of the officers involved in Gray’s arrest with murder and five others with lesser crimes.

Mosby said the state medical examiner had ruled Gray’s death a homicide. She said he was unlawfully arrested and the officers repeatedly ignored his pleas for medical help while he was handcuffed, shackled and lying face down in the back of a police van.

Her swift decision to bring charges contrasted with decisions last year by grand juries to clear officers in the Missouri and New York deaths.

The mood of Saturday’s rally was almost celebratory, in sharp contrast to the outrage expressed earlier in the week, especially on Monday, when more than a dozen law enforcement officers were hurt and more than 200 people were arrested.

Still, Baltimore police arrested at least a dozen people on Saturday for violating the curfew.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Rucker in Washington, and Ellen Wulfhorst and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Frances Kerry and Frank McGurty; Editing by Ralph Boulton)