BALTIMORE, MD – Things could be returning to normal in Baltimore: The city has lifted its curfew, the National Guard is preparing its exit and a mall that had been a flashpoint in the riots has been reopened.
The goal, said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake “has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary.”
The mayor spoke after a tour of Mondawmin Mall, which reopened Sunday after recovering from rioting that police said was spawned by social media rumors of a “purge” after Freddie Gray’s death.
Because of the improving conditions in the city, she said, the National Guard will be wrapping up its operations, but don’t expect the troops to leave immediately.
“It’s not like you flip a switch,” she said. “They have to unwind their operations, and they’re going to do that over this next week.”
Asked whether she thought it was premature to send the military home, she replied, “It will either be too long or too early. You’ll let me know afterward.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, speaking at a separate news conference Sunday, said it “will take a couple days, maybe about 72 hours” to complete the drawdown, at which point the state of emergency can be lifted.
“We’ve already started to withdraw. It will take a little while. We brought 4,000 people in,” he said.
The city can now take a breath and assess the events that rocked the city since Gray’s death.
Since April 23, police made 486 arrests at protests, rallies and other gatherings related to Gray’s death, police spokesman Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said Sunday.
Since last Saturday, 113 police officers have been injured. Forty-six people were arrested Saturday night, four of them juveniles, he said.
Two hundred Baltimore businesses, many of them minority-owned and many lacking insurance, were lost in the April 27 protests alone — the worst night of protests. It “will take a little while to get back to normal,” Hogan said, “but let’s get people back to normal, get people back in the city to visit devastated shops.”
And all is not completely calm here still. Monday afternoon, officers responded to an incident involving a suspect with a handgun. They attempted to take him into custody, and during that process, the suspect’s weapon discharged, according to Lt. Col. Melvin Russell. A police source said the suspect was arrested and transported to the hospital out of an abundance of caution.
Obama: ‘I’m not interested in blame’
Speaking Monday from the campus of Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, President Barack Obama announced a spin-off of his already-existing “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative into a new, nonprofit foundation.
The President’s initiative was created in 2014 by the White House in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing to address the lack of opportunity that young minority boys face in often poor neighborhoods across the country.
“That sense of unfairness, powerlessness, people not hearing their voices — that’s helped fuel some of the protests that we’ve seen in places like Baltimore, and Ferguson, and right here in New York,” Obama said.
He stressed the issues at play are much bigger than simple policing problems; it’s about equality of opportunity.
“There’s no shortage of people telling you who and what is to blame for the plight of these communities. But I’m not interested in blame. I’m interested in responsibility, and I’m interested in results,” the President said.
City prosecutor identifies six officers
Six police officers have been charged in the death of Gray last month, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday.
The 25-year-old died after suffering “a severe and critical neck injury” while being transported “handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained” inside a police van, she said. It is against police policy to transport a prisoner without proper restraints such as a seat belt.
The police union called for an independent prosecutor, saying Mosby has conflicts of interests. They also criticized her for not waiting until police were done with their inquiry.
“We are disappointed in the apparent rush to judgment, given the fact that the investigation into this matter has not been concluded,” said Gene Ryan, president of the police union. “Our officers, like every other American, are entitled to due process.”
Police officers arrested Gray on April 12. He slipped into a coma after suffering a series of injuries and died a week later.
Mosby said the incident began when two police officers on bike patrol “made eye contact” with Gray, who then ran.
When officers caught up to him, he surrendered and was placed on the ground, arms handcuffed behind his back. He said he couldn’t breathe and asked for an inhaler, but he did not get it, according to Mosby.