Baltimore Curfew Takes Effect, Police Clear Streets

Civic leaders declared victory when the intersection at North and Pennsylvania avenues had been cleared of all but a few stragglers 15 minutes after the beginning of Baltimore's curfew.

As of 10:30 Wednesday night, police had taken no action against the very few who remained out, and hundreds of officers in riot gear remained at the scene of Monday's violent protests with nothing to do.

"We are very proud of what has happened here tonight. We are proud of our city," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who returned to the scene Wednesday asking protesters to go home ahead of the 10 p.m. curfew, said.

Cumming's promised that the investigation into Freddie Gray's death in police custody will remain a top priority, while State Sen. Catherine Pugh urged the community to be patient with the process.

Earlier in the evening, Community members forcefully urged others to go home ahead of the curfew, and a few fights broke out within the crowd. But they were quickly broken up.

During the day, thousands of people hit the streets in Baltimore and several other cities from Boston and New York to Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., to protest the death of Gray who died of spinal injuries sustained after his arrest by Baltimore police and to demand reforms to police procedures.

While protests of the death of Freddie Gray were mostly peaceful, there were some arrests, including 16 in Baltimore and more than 60 at protests in Manhattan. Gray, of Baltimore, was critically injured in police custody.

After meeting with faith leaders and a lawyer for Gray's family, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said officials were working hard to make the investigation into Gray's death transparent and keep the community informed.

On Wednesday, Baltimore police released 101 protesters, who had been arrested in violent demonstrations this week, because authorities were unable to complete their paperwork in time, the state public defender's office said.

The 101 detainees walked free without charges on Wednesday afternoon, but Baltimore Commissioner Anthony Batts said that the department will conduct follow-up investigations and charge people appropriately.

The department was required by law to release people from custody if they were not charged within 48 hours.

The release of protesters came as Baltimore police announced that their report on the death of Gray would not be made public by Friday's deadline set by Batts.

Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said late Wednesday afternoon that the report would remain closed to protect the integrity of the inquiry.

"We know that there are a lot of people who want answers who have concerns they want addressed, and we have an obligation to do our best to be accountable," Kowalczyk said. But "we cannot release all of this information to the public, because if there is a decision to charge in any event by the state's attorney's office, the integrity of that investigation has to be protected."

State Sen. Catherine Pugh urged the community to be patient with the Gray investigation as the department and state's attorney will need time to "wade through those papers."

Anger and anxiety still hung over Baltimore on Wednesday.

Authorities carefully monitored the rally after teenagers started the violence Monday afternoon, throwing bricks and bottles at officers who had gathered near a major bus transfer point. The situation escalated from there, overwhelming police as protesters set fire to cars and buildings and raided stores.

Schools closed Tuesday because of the mayhem, but reopened Wednesday, after the city's first night of a curfew went off without the widespread violence many had feared.

About 3,000 police and National Guardsmen descended on the city to help keep order, and life wasn't likely to get completely back to normal anytime soon: The curfew was set to go back into effect at 10 p.m.

The curfew got off to a not-so-promising start Tuesday night when about 200 protesters ignored warnings from police and pleas from pastors and other community activists to disperse. Some threw water bottles or lay down on the ground.

A line of officers behind riot shields hurled tear gas canisters and fired pepper balls at the crowd, which dispersed in a matter of minutes.

Police said 35 people were arrested after the curfew went into effect.

And in what was one of the weirdest spectacles in major-league history, Wednesday afternoon's Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards was closed to the public for safety reasons.

Earlier in the day, protesters outside the office of Baltimore's top prosecutor said they supported State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who took office in January and pledged during her campaign to address aggressive police practices.

Mosby's office is expected on Friday to get investigative findings from police on Gray's death. She will then face a decision on whether and how to pursue charges against the six police officers who arrested Gray.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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