Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

Baltimore mayor lifts curfew after dozens arrested overnight

Maryland's governor called on Sunday for 'a day of prayer and peace' as police announce 486 arrests since April 23

Baltimore's mayor lifted a citywide curfew Sunday, six days after the death of Freddie Gray sparked protests across the city.

The order for residents to stay home after 10 p.m. had been in place since Tuesday, and officials had planned to keep it in place until 5 a.m. Monday. Rallies since last Monday's violence have been peaceful, and the announcement of charges against six officers involved in Gray's arrest eased tensions.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that her goal was not to maintain the curfew any longer than was necessary.

"My number one priority in instituting a curfew was to ensure the public peace, safety, health and welfare of Baltimore citizens," the Democratic mayor said Sunday. "It was not an easy decision, but one I felt was necessary to help our city restore calm."

Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said Sunday that 486 people had been arrested since April 23 — 46 people on Saturday night. The Guardian reported that legal observers and medical volunteers were among those arrested on the final night of the curfew.

Kowalczyk also says 113 officers had been injured while responding to protests, although he did not detail how serious the injuries were. With the curfew over, he says officers will continue to deploy to "areas of concern" and monitor protest activity.

Protests since Monday have been peaceful, and the criminal charges announced Friday against the officers involved in Gray's arrest have eased tensions in the city. Gray died of a severe injury that prosecutors say he suffered while riding in a police van.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called for a "day of prayer and peace" Sunday.

Many in the majority black city erupted with joy Friday after the officers involved in the arrest were charged, in contrast to what happened after the deaths of unarmed black men over the past year in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, where authorities found police broke no laws and officers involved were not charged.

At the demonstration Saturday that was billed as a "victory rally," speakers expressed gratitude to prosecutor Marilyn 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."

While the charges announced by Mosby brought relief to the city of 620,000, residents said they needed to see justice served, not only in Baltimore but in other U.S. communities where they feel minorities are disproportionately targeted and badly treated by police.

"We will gather in peace, and we will march in peace, and we will march until police brutality ends in the United States," Shabazz told the crowd.

Organized through social media hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackSpring, smaller rallies took place in a number of other U.S. cities on Saturday. In Seattle dozens of people marched and blocked traffic, but there was no repeat of a rowdy May Day marches that ended with clashes with police in Seattle, Portland and Oakland on Friday.

Friday's charges were preceded by nearly two weeks of demonstrations that on Monday night gave way to violence in the streets of Baltimore, prompting officials to call in the National Guard and implement an emergency curfew.

The 10 p.m. curfew, which was ordered Tuesday, had drawn harsh criticism from the city's residents.

The Maryland chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to Mayor Stephanie 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."

On Friday, Mosby filed charges against six police officers involved in the arrest, transport and fatal injury of Gray, 25, who died a week after suffering a broken neck while inside a police van, she said. They were released on bond Friday.

Mosby said Gray's neck was broken because he was placed head-first 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.

Mosby deemed the death a homicide. No dates have been set for trials but speakers at Saturday's rally in front of city hall urged people to ensure that they were registered to vote, so that they can be called as jurors.

Mosby surprised legal observers by filing charges against the officers herself, rather than seeking a grand jury indictment, a day after receiving the results of the internal police investigation and an official autopsy report.

"It is surprising because many prosecutors would calculate that there is less risk of alienating the police by putting this in the hands of the grand jury, and she did not do that," said Andrew Levy, a longtime Baltimore defense attorney and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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