BALTIMORE (AP) — Six days after riots sparked by Freddie Gray’s death, Baltimore’s mayor lifted a citywide curfew Sunday and faith leaders called for continued activism until justice is achieved.
A jubilant crowd of several hundred prayed and sang civil-rights anthems at a City Hall rally. Sunday’s peaceful gathering came two days after the city’s top prosecutor announced criminal charges against six officers involved in Gray’s arrest.
Speaker after speaker exhorted the crowd not to rest just because the officers have been charged. The Rev. Jamal Bryant, a fiery leader of the protests that followed Gray’s April 12 arrest and the death of the 25-year-old black man a week later, drew deafening cheers when he said the officers deserve jail time.
“We’ve got to see this all the way through, until all six officers trade in their blue uniform for an orange uniform,” Bryant said. “Let them know: Orange is the new black.”
The Rev. Lisa Weah, pastor of the New Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gray’s neighborhood, said the message of equal justice for all must not be lost.
“Our prayer is that Baltimore will be the model for the rest of the nation,” she said.
Police said Sunday that 486 people had been arrested since April 23, and that 113 officers had been injured at riots and protests. The extent of the officers’ injuries was unclear. Earlier in the week, police had said that out of nearly 100 injured officers, 13 were hurt to the extent that they couldn’t work, and 15 were on desk duty.
The order for residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. had been in place since Tuesday; officials had originally planned to maintain it through Monday morning. Protests since last Monday’s riots have been peaceful, and Friday’s announcement of charges eased tensions.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the curfew’s end in a statement.
“My number one priority in instituting a curfew was to ensure the public peace, safety, health and welfare of Baltimore citizens,” the Democratic mayor said. “It was not an easy decision, but one I felt was necessary to help our city restore calm.”
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has said Gray died after suffering a broken neck while inside a police van. On Friday, Mosby filed charges against the officers involved in his arrest and transport. One is charged with second-degree murder. Three others are charged with involuntary manslaughter and two with second-degree assault.
Mosby said Gray’s neck was broken because he was placed head-first in a police van, handcuffed and later in leg shackles, where he was left to slam against the walls of the small metal compartment. Police said the officers who arrested Gray ignored his cries for help because they thought he was faking his injuries. He was repeatedly denied medical attention.
Rioting and looting erupted hours after Gray’s funeral last Monday. A 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew was ordered Tuesday after a night of violence, looting and arson. About 3,000 National Guard soldiers were deployed to the city along with 1,000 extra police officers, including some from out of state. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said the Guard and the officers would be leaving over the next few days.
“We think it’s time to get the community back to normal again,” Hogan said. “It’s been a very hard week, but we’ve kept everybody safe.”
The Maryland chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to Rawlings-Blake on Saturday alleging that the curfew was “being enforced arbitrarily and selectively” to break up peaceful protests and prevent media outlets from providing accurate coverage of police activity.
“The curfew is having a dramatic effect on the ability of Baltimore residents to simply go about their daily lives free from fear or arbitrary arrest,” the letter read, adding that it’s also “the target of protest and the source of new problems rather than a solution.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Sunday he will ask President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to send a bipartisan delegation “to look at what is going on in Baltimore.”
“It is so symbolic of what is going on all over this country. We have to address the problems of the urban areas because so many our young people are being left behind,” Cummings said.
More than 200 people were arrested during Monday’s riots, and more than half of those were released without charges. Rawlings-Blake said during an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that authorities are combing through videotapes to identify looters and charge them.