After a tense night in a city recently devastated by violence, major intersections in Baltimore were cleared by police officers who advanced on crowds shortly after the city’s 10 p.m. curfew fell Tuesday. Ten arrests were made through the course of Tuesday evening — in contrast to more than 200 arrests stemming from Monday’s violence. Armored National Guard vehicles and phalanx of law enforcement were the primary presence on the streets as the night wore on.
Tuesday’s flash point came shortly after the curfew, when about 100 people remained at the major intersection of North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. Some threw bottles and rocks at officers outfitted in riot gear. Police deployed smoke bombs and pepper balls against those who remained, and a group described as “criminals” started a fire outside a library, according to the Baltimore police Twitter feed. By 11 p.m., however, most protesters had dispersed.
“Tonight, I think the biggest thing is that the citizens are safe, the city is stable,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said in a press briefing shortly before midnight, adding that the curfew appeared to have worked.
Thousands of the city’s residents, 1,000 police officers, 2,000 National Guard troops and flanks of national media waited in edgy anticipation to see how events would play out on the first night with the curfew, which was put in place after residents looted local stores, threw rocks at officers, and set buildings and cars aflame on Monday night. Baltimore remains under a state of emergency first declared by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday night. Peaceful protests began April 12 in response to the mysterious, police-custody death of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray and escalated after his funeral Monday.
About an hour before the enactment of the curfew, Baltimore police officers in cars and helicopters announced via loudspeakers that they would enforce the citywide curfew. Baltimore also activated its reverse 911 system to make the announcement to residents via land-line telephones, Police Captain Eric Kowalczyk said during a press briefing on Tuesday night. Msnbc’s Rachel Maddow pointed out that those calls would be reaching people already at home — presumably the wrong audience.
Those violating the restriction on Tuesday could face criminal charges, Kowalczyk said earlier Tuesday. He insisted that officers would use discretion and common sense in making curfew-related arrests. Batts said that, of Tuesday night’s arrests, seven were for violating curfew, two were for looting, and one was for disorderly conduct.
The curfew extends until 5 a.m. Wednesday, and will be in effect for at least the next week. It adds to an existing juvenile curfew put in place in 2014, which requires children younger than 14 be indoors by 9 p.m. on school nights. Adolescents who are between the ages of 14 and 17 can remain outside until 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends or when school is not in session. Residents going to and from work, media, and medical emergencies will be exempt from the restrictions.
Demonstrations on Tuesday remained primarily peaceful as they continued into the evening hours, with protesters preaching nonviolence, and musicians and dancers performing on the streets. Many gathered outside of City Hall chanted “All lives matter.”
A self-proclaimed member of the “Bloods” gang told msnbc on Tuesday that they wanted a cease-fire, not trouble with law enforcement. The comment came in contrast to the report that police on Monday had “credible sources” saying riots were caused by gangs.
Batts on Tuesday asked for cooperation and understanding, noting that he understands the inconvenience the curfew places on residents’ movements after dark. “As we move forward to calm our city, have patience with us,” he urged during a press conference with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed her concerns during a fundraiser in Manhattan on Tuesday. “Baltimore is burning. It is heartbreaking,” she said. “The tragic death of another young African-American man. The injuries to police officers. The burning of peoples’ homes and small businesses. We have to restore order and security. But then we have to take a hard look as to what we need to do to reform our system.”
Rawlings-Blake commended the efforts of residents on Tuesday to come out and clean up the city. Since public schools were closed on Tuesday, many children also joined in the efforts. “Today we saw a lot more of what Baltimore is about,” the mayor said. “I think this can be our defining moment and not our darkest days, as we saw yesterday.” Rawlings-Blake, who has faced criticism for what was perceived as the city’s slow response to the violence, also expressed gratitude to the Baltimore Police Department and the law enforcement efforts of several surrounding Maryland counties.
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The mayor said she spoke to a woman who was in tears over the loss of the CVS, which was looted and burned on Monday. Rawlings-Blake noted that the neighborhood often struggles to get mainstream businesses to invest in area, which has high rates of poverty and crime.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned the violence that swept Baltimore, adding that it was an inappropriate expression of long-simmering problems.
“If we really want to solve the problem, we could. It would just require everybody saying this is important and significant and we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped,” the president said in response to a question asked during a press conference at the White House with Japanese Prime MInister Shinzō Abe.
Obama added that change would require both action from law enforcement, as well as citizens. “There are some police departments that have to do some searching,” he said. “There are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But our country needs to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch also reached out to city and state officials on Tuesday, and Justice Department Civil Rights Division head Vanita Gupta will meet with various groups in Baltimore, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice. ”When officers get injured in senseless violence, they become victims as well,” Lynch said in the statement.
Batts said earlier on Tuesday that, for the most part, the city had remained calm throughout the day. “Overall, today it has been a very good day,” he explained. “We had dancing. We had people celebrating. We had people bringing calm and peace.” He added that the National Guard, as well as officers from New Jersey and Washington, D.C., had joined forces to increase police presence on the streets in the days going forward.
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Both Rawlings-Blake and Hogan said they did not want to turn her handling of the situation into a political issue. “The decision to bring in the National Guard is a decision that has to be very carefully weighed,” Rawlings-Blake told msnbc’s Al Sharpton on Tuesday evening. She added that she had to first consider the resources on hand before calling in the Guard.
Hogan, during the Tuesday press conference, added that he signed an executive order activating the National Guard 30 seconds after he received a call from the mayor. “We she asked us for help, we immediately responded. I know it typically takes eight hours to mobilize the Guard,” he said. “We did it in three, because we were ready.”
Meanwhile, the city’s baseball team, the Orioles, will play Chicago’s White Sox tomorrow afternoon, after games were postponed on Monday and Tuesday due to protests. The match will be unprecedentedly quiet, though — as of now, it is closed to the public.