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Most Obey Curfew, Though Some Protesters Push Back

Staff Sgt. Ron Lee via flickr

The streets of Baltimore were relatively clear after 10 o’clock on Tuesday night, due to a curfew instituted by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Black after rioters destroyed buildings and set fires across the city.

In the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, home to Freddie Gray, where demonstrations throughout the day took on a fairly festive tone, many people streamed away as night fell and the curfew loomed. But a handful of activists committed to stay out and test the police.

Gray sustained a fatal spine injury while in police custody, and died last Sunday.

“Why are they making us leave if we’re being peaceful? They’re inciting us. They are. It’s unfair,” said Victoria Few, a college student. “It’s important that we stand. If you want us to love our city, and stand with our city, stand behind our city.”  

As the curfew went into effect, police in riot gear stood ready to advance on the shrinking crowd. Community leaders implored protesters to leave and avoid confrontation. Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings told reporters it hurt to see his neighborhood in pain, and said it’s time to reform the police department.

“This is, without a doubt, the civil rights cause of this generation,” Cummings said. “This and voting rights. And America needs to wake up, big time.”

Cummings then took to a bullhorn to talk down demonstrators.

“Please turn around, and go home to your families,” he said to the crowd. “I live in this neighborhood. We’re with you. We hear you. And I’m not asking you, I’m begging you to please turn around and go home.”

Many from the community asking protesters to obey the curfew also pointed blame at the media. With nearly as many reporters as protesters, one man said that the media was fueling the tensions and encouraging people to act up. A woman trying to corral reporters away from the police lines said simply, “We’ve had enough stories for tonight.”

At roughly 10:25 pm, police began to move in on the few dozen remaining protesters, launching pepper balls to disperse the crowd. Protesters threw water bottles and other items at the advancing officers.

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.