Marchers were back in the streets of Baltimore on Wednesday, demanding change and accountability for the recent death of Freddie Gray.
As they were Tuesday, the demonstrations were peaceful, with people chanting and marching and holding placards. Many wore T-shirts that said, simply: “Black Lives Matter.”
Police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk told reporters that he was expecting large crowds and by Wednesday evening they were on the move.
“Our sincere hope is that we see what we saw yesterday, which is people coming together in a peaceful manner, and if they so choose, voicing their concerns and their frustrations in a way that’s reflective of the city of Baltimore, and what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours,” Kowalczyk said.
The police captain was contrasting what happened Tuesday to what happened Monday.
On Monday night, police made 235 arrests. After a citywide curfew went into effect at 10 p.m. Tuesday, only 35 people were arrested. Eighteen people were arrested in Wednesday in connection with protests.
On Monday, 20 officers were injured, including six seriously. On Tuesday night, one officer was hurt. And on Monday night, dozens of cars and buildings went up in flames as sirens blared throughout the city. On Tuesday night, nothing was on fire.
While some protesters defied the curfew and faced off with police, the confrontation was essentially a staring contest — each side waiting to see what the other side would do.
The peace was exactly what the family of Gray had asked for. It was Gray’s death in police custody that sparked outrage and protests in Baltimore. The unrest also is being motivated by deeper sources of tension.
Among the marchers Wednesday was Enya Baez-Ferreras, a student at Johns Hopkins University.
“Baltimore is not violent. We have been under a lot of duress, and the violence that erupted the other day is only in reaction to the years and decades of oppression, of police brutality, of harassment that many of the Baltimore residents have been under,” she said.
Also this week, protesters in other major cities — including Ferguson, Missouri; New York, Chicago, Oakland and Los Angeles — have marched in solidarity with Baltimore. Video from New York protests Wednesday showed people getting arrested.
Obama: No excuse for riots
In an interview that aired Wednesday morning on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” President Barack Obama said, “The kind of violence, looting, destruction that we saw from a handful of individuals in Baltimore, there’s no excuse for that.”
He said his “heart goes out” to injured officers, and he praised police who he said “showed appropriate restraint.”
The President also talked about the state of urban communities. “If you send police officers into those situations where the drug trade is the primary economy and you say to them basically your job is to contain that and arrest kids and put them in jail, when those police officers know (it’s not going to fix things), then it’s not surprising you end up with a situation of enormous tension between those communities and those police officers,” he said.
Protesters policed one another
The relative calm that took over Baltimore can be credited in part to peaceful protesters who formed human barricades between hot-tempered demonstrators and police, day and night.
“We show that we can police ourselves,” said a man who stood for hours in what protesters called a “unity line.”
“We’re about positivity here in Baltimore. It starts with us. This long line of people came out here because what we seen on TV yesterday, we didn’t like it.”
In the minutes before the curfew, one community leader grabbed a megaphone and clamored for demonstrators to leave.
“Go home tonight! Please!” she bellowed on the megaphone. “You know, it’s not about people selling out.”
The curfew will take effect again at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, more than 100 people arrested during the unrest in Baltimore this week were released without charges, according to the state public defender’s office.
Authorities either had to charge or release them within 48 hours of their arrests.
“We’ve come up on a timeline,” said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. But, he added: “We’re not giving up on them. We’re just going to follow up.”
Many residents credited police for not overreacting after the curfew went into effect.
“The police did a fantastic job tonight,” one person commented on Twitter. “Technically they could of arrested everyone at 10:01.”
Some 2,000 National Guardsmen and more than 1,000 police officers from across Maryland and neighboring states were assigned to the streets of Baltimore on Tuesday night, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said.
“This combined force will not tolerate violence or looting, which has led to the destruction of property and put innocent Marylanders at risk,” the governor said.
While there was no major damage Tuesday night, the recovery from Monday’s destruction is far from over.
Many saw their neighborhoods torn apart, their homes and vehicles damaged, their livelihoods in shambles.
So residents like Cindy Oxendine took to the streets to sweep up rocks, glass and more, despite her aching back.
“It started off peaceful, and it ends up like this,” Oxendine told CNN affiliate WBAL on Tuesday. “I’ve seen stuff like this on the news in other cities, but I never thought I would see it in front of my doorstep. It’s crazy.”
The governor’s office has started a website for those wanting to help Baltimore recover from this week’s riots.
“We have received an outpouring of support from Marylanders and people all around the country who want to help get our beloved Baltimore back on its feet in the wake of the violence and destruction,” Hogan said in a statement.
The website, governor.maryland.gov/mdunites/, allows visitors to volunteer for cleanup efforts, donate to charities helping affected residents and report new incidents to police.
Fresh protests across the country
Baltimore wasn’t alone in protests Tuesday night. Hundreds of demonstrators flooded streets in Ferguson, Missouri, in solidarity.
But the outcome in Ferguson was more violent. At least two people were shot in separate incidents.
City spokesman Jeff Small said officers aren’t sure whether the shootings were linked to the protests.
“Police are having a difficult time investigating because of the rocks being thrown at them,” Small said.
Ferguson and Baltimore are among a spate of cities where protests have erupted over the deaths of black men who died after encounters with police.
Last August, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson.
The outrage in Baltimore stemmed from the April 19 death of Gray, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody one week earlier. Many questions remain over how Gray suffered that fatal injury.
Baltimore police have been investigating Gray’s death and are expected to have a report for the state’s attorney’s office by Friday. From there, prosecutors will decide whether charges should be filed.
Anger over Gray’s death may have spurred Monday’s violence, but Baltimore City Council member Brandon Scott said it was also fueled by “a long, long, longstanding issue with young African-Americans.”
“We’re talking about years and decades of mistrust, of misfortune, of despair that it’s just coming out in anger,” Scott said. “No, it is not right for them to burn down their own city. But that is what’s coming out of these young people.”