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Baltimore lifts curfew, National Guard begins pullout

Update: May, 04/2015 - 10:56

BALTIMORE — Baltimore has lifted a curfew that was imposed across the US East Coast city following widespread riots, as thousands of National Guard troops began to pull out.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had faced growing calls for the curfew to be scrapped, particularly from store and restaurant owners who said the 10pm to 5am nightly restriction was wrecking business.

"My goal has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary," Rawlings-Blake wrote on Twitter. "I believe we have reached that point today." Hundreds of people meanwhile rallied again at City Hall plaza, summoned by local religious leaders.

Across the city, people cheered the return to relative calm with impromptu celebrations, a far cry from the riots that saw angry protesters torch cars, pelt police with stones and ransack stores on April 27.

The riots stemmed from protests over the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who suffered a serious spinal injury while in the back of a police van on April 12.

He died a week later.

A total of 113 officers were wounded and 486 protesters were arrested, including 46 overnight into Sunday, Baltimore police spokesman Captain Eric Kowalczyk told reporters.

The curb on nighttime activity was initially supposed to remain in place until Monday.

To help prevent repeat violence, authorities sent about 3,000 Maryland National Guard troops into Baltimore.

Yet "the sense of siege will persist as long as Governor Hogan leaves military forces in the city – we urge him to remove them now," warned Deborah Jeon, legal director of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Soon after the curfew ended, Governor Larry Hogan said the troops had already started to leave the city.

"It's going to take a couple of days to get everybody out," Hogan cautioned. "We had to build an entire city to save the city." Hogan called for "healing" and prayer in Baltimore and spoke of the "devastating" financial ramifications of the riots and curfew.

The governor, who is Roman Catholic, attended mass with the city's Archbishop William Lori.

About 200 businesses, most minority-owned, were lost in the rioting on April 27, according to Hogan. He estimated the losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. — AFP

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