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A daily curfew in Baltimore, which was implemented following violent protests over the death of Freddie Gray, was lifted Sunday by the city's mayor hours before hundreds of jubilant demonstrators flocked to City Hall for a peace rally.
"I have rescinded my order instituting a city-wide curfew. I want to thank the people of Baltimore for their patience," announced Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Twitter.
"My goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary. I believe we have reached that point today," Rawlings-Blake said. The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew had been in effect for five nights.
“We can march all night long if we want to,” declared Rev. Jamal Bryant at a rally that he organized Sunday afternoon at City Hall. Bryant has been active in speaking out about Gray’s death and delivered the eulogy at his funeral.
Hundreds gathered to pray, sing and dance in response to his calls on social media for residents to join him "to ask God to change the city."
"This is a festival for all of Baltimore. We’re standing together,” Bryant said. He said the people of Baltimore were “declaring victory” over police brutality, a corrupt police department and racial profiling. Six officers who were involved in Gray's arrest were charged Friday in connection with his death.
"We have shut this city down to say we will not go forward in pain," Bryant said. He also encouraged rally-goers to register to vote at a stand that had been set up outside of City Hall for a second day.
The ACLU lauded Rawlings-Blake's decision to lift the curfew, but pressed for the National Guard to be ordered out of the city. "The sense of siege will persist as long as Governor Hogan leaves military forces in the City — we urge him to remove them now," Deborah Jeon, the legal director of the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement Saturday that 3,000 National Guardsmen, 578 state troopers and 432 officers from other states had been deployed to respond to the demonstrations. On Sunday he had not yet lifted a state of emergency that was declared in the wake of Monday's looting and violence.
More than forty people were arrested during protests Saturday night, Baltimore Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said during a Sunday news conference. Kowalczyk said 486 people had been arrested and 113 officers had been injured since Thursday, April 23.
Kowalczyk said that police would keep patrolling large gatherings, and called for a continuation of the largely peaceful demonstrations of the past couple days. “This weekend has shown that Baltimore is capable of coming together and expressing concern and frustration in a manner that's peaceful and positive,” he said.
Rawlings-Blake said patrol by the National Guard would "unwind" gradually.
"It's not like you flip a switch," she said.
"A lot of the unrest has been settled, but that doesn't mean the work doesn't continue," Rawlings-Blake said during a Sunday afternoon news conference outside of Baltimore's Mondawmin Mall. The shopping center had been closed after rioters vandalized some of the stores earlier in the week, but it was reopening Sunday, according to the mall's website.
Hogan said Sunday that lifting the curfew was a "good idea" because the city needed to start rebuilding. Hogan said about 200 Baltimore businesses were lost in the mayhem. "Let's get people coming back to the city … it's safe and we've got calm and peace," he said.
Hogan had called for a statewide "Day of Prayer and Peace" on the first Sunday since the unrest erupted. "I pray that tomorrow will be a day of reflection and will serve as a foundation for how we all conduct ourselves in the days and months to come," he said in a statement Saturday night.
The governor attended a church service Sunday morning at St. Peter Claver Church, less than a mile away from where Gray was arrested.