Baltimore lifts curfew, six days after riots over man’s death
The mayor of Baltimore on Sunday lifted a curfew that was imposed across the East Coast city following rioting over the death of an African American man in police custody.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had faced growing calls for the curfew to be scrapped, particularly from store and restaurant owners who said the 10:00 pm to 5:00 am nightly restriction was impacting business.
“My goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary,” Rawlings-Blake wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning. “I believe we have reached that point today.”
The curfew was imposed April 28 and applied to everyone except emergency crews. Authorities initially had said the curfew would remain in place until May 4.
Baltimore took the unusual step of a citywide curfew after rioters torched cars, pelted police with stones and ransacked stores on April 27. The riots followed protests over the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who suffered a serious spinal injury while in the back of a police van on April 12.
He died a week later.
On Friday, prosecutors said Gray should never even have been arrested and had committed no crime. Six Baltimore police officers, three white and three black, were charged with multiple counts including second-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with the death.
Baltimore’s police union has condemned what it calls “an egregious rush to judgement,” as it defended the officers and expressed confidence they would be cleared.
– Growing roster of deaths –
Gray’s case is the latest in a growing roster of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, and has rekindled national debate and simmering tensions about whether police are too hasty to use deadly violence when dealing with African American or minority suspects.
Perhaps the most famous case is that of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who was fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri. The death and subsequent lack of legal action against the police officer who shot him prompted widespread riots in the St Louis suburb.
Similarly, the death of father-of-six Eric Garner, 43, sparked broad protests. Garner died after being held in a police chokehold while being arrested for illegally selling individual cigarettes in New York.
Many residents in Baltimore, a port city of 620,000 people, reacted jubilantly to news of the six officers being charged, and demonstrations since the April 27 riots have generally been peaceful.
Thousands took to the streets again Saturday and another rally was planned for 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) Sunday.
A building chorus of residents and business owners had grown outraged over the curfew, with an online petition calling for its end drawing more than 2,000 signatures and local politicians saying it had gone on long enough.
“My sincere hope is that all of us may resume our focus on Baltimore city being the place we live, work, and play, as soon as humanly possible,” Councilman Eric Costello said on Saturday. “In order to do so, several things must happen, and the most important is lifting the curfew.”
Bar owner Ron Furman told the Baltimore Sun that his business had lost tens of thousands of dollars, with sales down an estimated 95 percent.
“It’s devastating for us,” Furman told the newspaper. “We’re talking about an impact that’s going to be felt throughout the entire year.”
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