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Amid curfew, Rawlings-Blake and Batts were inundated with emails to end it

As Baltimore's curfew wore on, and the city's unrest quieted, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was inundated with emails asking that the curfew be lifted — many from campaigns organized by Change.org and the American Civil Liberties Union.

For example, at 1:22 p.m. on Friday, May 1 — five days after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had instituted the curfew — Batts received an email from the online petition website Change.org.

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"500 more people signed in the last two days," the email said, referring to a petition directed at him and Rawlings-Blake and calling for an end to the curfew.

"I need to tend bar to make money," one man wrote in one of several comments included in the email from petition signers.

"I work in the downtown area and I have my living to maintain. No rioters were present in that area," a woman wrote in another.

It wasn't the only email Batts received from the website, which continually kept him apprised as the number of signatures on the petition grew.

Emails asking to "curb the curfew" also began flooding the inboxes of Batts and Rawlings-Blake the same day — and continued through that Saturday — from a separate online campaign organized by the ACLU. The emails were signed by residents in Baltimore and across the state, from Oakland in far Western Maryland to Salisbury on the Eastern Shore.

"All residents of Baltimore have the right to secure justice and freedom from harassment for themselves and their families, friends, and neighbors," the ACLU form letter began. "All people have a right to demand policy changes of the government to make that dream a reality. And all people have a constitutionally-protected right to do so on the streets and sidewalks of Baltimore without unnecessary restrictions that at this point seem to serve more to stoke community anger and resentment than to ensure public safety.

"I believe the conditions for lifting the curfew have been met, and that the curfew is no longer serving its intended purpose. Moreover, I am deeply concerned that the curfew is being selectively enforced by arrests in poor and minority neighborhoods. The enforcement, conducted by armed troops and helicopters in those areas only, adds to the sense of a siege environment in the targeted neighborhoods.

"It is time to curb the curfew!"

The emails, among 7,000 obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Public Information Act request illustrate the public pressure being put on the mayor's office — and the police, who did not control the curfew — to lift it in the days following the April 27 violence, when rioting, looting and arson broke out in some neighborhoods.

By the following weekend, many in the city felt calm had been restored — thanks in part to the presence of the National Guard and the state's attorney's decision to charge six officers in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. They felt late-night clashes between police and protesters were occurring as much because of the curfew as in spite of it.

By Saturday, as the ACLU emails kept pouring in, Rawlings-Blake herself wanted to lift the curfew, but Gov. Larry Hogan "was adamantly [against] it," according to an email written by Rawlings-Blake's chief of staff, Kaliope Parthemos.

The curfew, which barred people from being on city streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., was ultimately lifted on Sunday.

At Change.org, the organizer of the anti-curfew petition — Liam Flynn, owner of Liam Flynn's Ale House on North Avenue — celebrated, thanking the 2,408 people who had signed on.

"Victory!" he proclaimed.

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