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Baltimore Mayor Lifts Overnight Curfew

  • VOA News

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has ended the citywide overnight curfew as protesters hold another rally against police violence outside city hall.

Baltimore was in turmoil last week after the funeral for Freddie Gray -- the African American man who died last month while in police custody.

Rawlings-Blake said she did not want to have the curfew in place longer than necessary. "My number one priority in instituting a curfew was to ensure the public peace, safety, health and welfare of Baltimore citizens," she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and business owners, especially restaurants, criticized the curfew.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks at a news conference outside the Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, Maryland May 3, 2015.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks at a news conference outside the Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, Maryland May 3, 2015.

Shortly after the mayor's announcement ending the curfew, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said some of the 4,000 soldiers and police brought in from other states have begun to leave the city. Hogan said the state of emergency in Baltimore will not be lifted until all the soldiers have left.

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland criticized the curfew as "being used to restrict the First Amendment rights of protestors, legal observers, and the media" while also "engendering needless tension and hostility."

Demonstrators took advantage of a beautiful spring day to rally peacefully outside city hall Sunday. Many prayed for peace.

The neighborhood shopping mall that was looted during Monday's riots reopened for the first time Sunday, giving residents badly-needed accesses to a close-by supermarket and department store.

Parts of the city exploded in violence after Gray's funeral Monday, leaving stores and cars burned, police officers hurt, and more than 200 people arrested. The 25-year-old African-American man died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody.

Baltimore state's attorney's office has charged six officers involved in Gray's arrest - three of them African American - with crimes ranging from manslaughter to murder. Prosecutors say Gray was arrested for no reason and that officers ignored his pleas for medical help.

Saturday's rally

Earlier Saturday, the mood was largely celebratory as protesters chanted "no justice, no peace" following Friday's announcement of charges against six police officers in the death of Gray.

Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, top row from left, Caesar Goodson Jr., Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, and bottom row from left, William Porter, Brian Rice and Alicia White.

Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, top row from left, Caesar Goodson Jr., Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, and bottom row from left, William Porter, Brian Rice and Alicia White.

By Saturday night, law enforcement officials once again called for calm, and said the curfew would stay in place. Several people were arrested after brief scuffles with police.

Saturday's rally was the largest organized gathering since State's Attonrey Marilyn Mosby filed the felony charges – ranging from assault to murder.

Mosby said Gray "suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained" by a seat belt in a police van used to transport him.

But many warned that the charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter, were just a first step toward justice. The six police officers were arraigned and posted bail Friday.

Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, told reporters Friday that the family was "satisfied" with the indictment of the three black officers and three white officers and appealed to demonstrators for calm.

Protests nationwide

Protests also occurred in other U.S. cities on Saturday, some in conjunction with May Day-related demonstrations aimed at calling attention to workers' rights and immigration issues.

More than 100 people gather outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest police mistreatment of minorities, May 2, 2015. (Credit: Michael O'Sullivan/VOA)

More than 100 people gather outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest police mistreatment of minorities, May 2, 2015. (Credit: Michael O'Sullivan/VOA)

The Gray case drew more than 100 people to Los Angeles City Hall at midday to protest against police mistreatment of minorities.

In another development, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is planning to hold a hearing on law enforcement accountability this month.

A statement from Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said recent "news reports of excessive force by law enforcement and attacks on police officers have raised our nation's conscience about how law enforcement interacts with our nation's citizens."

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement Saturday that 3,000 soldiers, 578 state police and 432 police officers from other states were used in response to the demonstrations.

Hogan has called for a statewide “Day of Prayer and Peace" for Sunday and another rally was planned for the day at Baltimore's City Hall.

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