Six days after the death of Freddie Gray sparked riots in Baltimore, the city's mayor lifted a citywide curfew Sunday morning, signaling an end to the extraordinary measures taken to ensure public safety amid an outcry over police practices.
The order for residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. had been in place since Tuesday, and officials had planned to maintain it through Monday morning. Protests since Monday's riots have been peaceful, and Friday's announcement of charges against six officers involved in Gray's arrest eased tensions.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that she didn't want the curfew to continue any longer than necessary.
"My No. 1 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."
Gray died after suffering a broken neck while inside a police van. On Friday, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed charges against the six officers involved in his arrest, transport and fatal injury. The officers face charges ranging from manslaughter to second-degree murder.
Mosby, who deemed the death a homicide, said Gray's neck was broken because he was placed headfirst into a police van while in handcuffs and later 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.
At the demonstration on Saturday that was billed as a "victory rally," speakers expressed gratitude to Mosby for her decision.
"Every prosecutor should have such backbone," said Malik Shabazz, president of Black Lawyers for Justice and one of the demonstration's organizers.
"Every prosecutor should have such spine."
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has called for a statewide "Day of Prayer and Peace" on Sunday.
The 10 p.m. curfew, which was ordered Tuesday after a night of violence, looting and arson, drew harsh criticism from the city's residents. The National Guard has been in the city nearly all week along with more than 500 Maryland state troopers and 400 out-of-state police officers.
The Maryland chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to Rawlings-Blake on Saturday alleging that the curfew is "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."
As of 11 p.m. Saturday, about 20 people had been arrested, including one that was hit with a blast of pepper spray and was later taken away in an ambulance.