By Noah Bierman, Michael Muskal, and W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
BALTIMORE — A yellow school bus rumbling through a smattering of downtown traffic was a welcome sign of progress Wednesday morning as this riot-scarred city tried to return to normal after this week’s violence and looting.
No major incidents were reported overnight as a weeklong 10 p.m. curfew took hold and seemed to break city’s fevered response to the death of Freddie Gray, an African American who suffered a mortal injury while in police custody.
Ten people were arrested overnight, police said, two for looting, one for disorderly conduct and seven for violating the curfew. That was in addition to 235 arrests after Monday’s rioting that began hours after Gray’s funeral.
“Tonight I think the biggest thing is the citizens are safe, the city is stable,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said shortly before midnight as he declared the curfew a success. “We hope to maintain it that way.”
More than 3,000 officers and National Guard troops enforced the curfew, which got off to a slow start late Tuesday night when about 200 protesters ignored police warnings and the pleas of community activists to disperse. Some threw objects.
A line of police behind riot shields hurled tear gas canisters and fired pepper balls, slowly pushing back the crowd. Demonstrators picked up the canisters and hurled them back at officers. But the crowd rapidly dispersed and was down to just a few dozen people within minutes.
More than 20 police officers were injured in the past days, officials said.
The curfew ended at 5 a.m. and the city attempted to return to its pre-riot routines. Traffic resumed, but against a heavy show of National Guard, city police, and law enforcement officers from surrounding cities.
At North and Pennsylvania avenues, one of the centers of unrest, traffic moved as usual and residents went about their business as police in riot gear stood on each of the four corners.
“Things need to get back to normal,” said one police officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the situation. “That’s what’s starting to happen.”
About half a mile away the Mondawmin Mall, where rioters looted thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise on Monday, remained closed due to extensive damage during the unrest. Camouflaged Maryland National Guardsmen watched over each of the entrances.
However, the Shoppers Food and Pharmacy, which shares a parking lot with the mall, was open for business. And across the street, students entered Frederick Douglass High School after classes were canceled Tuesday.
“It’s good to move past all this,” said Robert Johnson, 50, who works at Shoppers. “There’s enough confusion in the world. We don’t need this madness.”
School buses were among the earliest vehicles on the roads. Like much of the city, schools were shuttered Tuesday. Educators said they were planning special programs.
“Principals and teachers are planning activities that will help students learn from the past days’ events. Counselors, social workers, and psychologists will be on hand to support students’ emotional needs,” the district’s executive officer, Gregory E. Thornton, said in a letter to parents.
Other usual city activities were also planned but with a special twist because of the days of protests.
The Baltimore Orioles were scheduled to play a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox after two previous games were postponed. But in what is believed to be a first in the history of the sport, Wednesday’s game will be played to an empty stadium. As a security measure, the afternoon game will be closed to the public.
On Tuesday, top officials including Governor Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake worked to calm the city, which has been in turmoil since Gray died on April 19, a week after he was arrested in West Baltimore, which became the epicenter of the riots and looting.
Gray’s spine was severed, but it remains a mystery exactly how and when that occurred. Video has shown Gray being arrested and his hands cuffed behind his back when he is placed in the van for transport. The van made at least two stops and at one, Gray is seen on video being taken out of the van. His legs are placed in irons and he is returned to the wagon.
Officials are still investigating the events, but police have acknowledged that Gray should have been buckled into a seat belt as he was transported and that he should have received early medical care.
Gray’s death touched off protests last week that increased in intensity through the weekend and finally into Monday night’s violence.
Photo: Yianni Mathioudakis via Flickr