It was a few minutes after 10 p.m. Thursday night, when curfew went into effect across Baltimore, but bells near City Hall started to ring, marking the change of the hour.
Earlier tweets showed Joseph Kent, the Morgan State advocate who was arrested Tuesday night in dramatic fashion and released earlier in the day, standing near a flag pole on the lawn out front of City Hall and speaking to a small crowd. But he and his audience were gone. All that remained were news trucks, reporters doing live shots, and a group of National Guard soldiers standing watch outside the house of government.
Just south, on The Block, the strip-club marquees were alight as if it was business as usual. But nobody was out in the usually-bustling area, save for a solitary pedestrian.
Closer to the Inner Harbor, there was a steady stream of cars on Lombard and Pratt streets—fewer drivers than there would probably be on a normal night, but more than one would expect for a city on virtual lockdown. Nobody was pulled over.
An African-American woman still dressed in her Chick-fil-A uniform sat just across the street from the World Trade Center, where National Guard troops were stationed with a humvee. Two people walked along Pratt Street unbothered.
Further east, at South Central Avenue and Fleet Street, where a sparkling new Hyatt Place hotel was recently erected, there was no sign of a police presence looking toward Harbor East in one direction and Fells Point in the other. The famous stretch of bars, shops, and cobblestone streets on Broadway was a complete ghost town. Many of the windows were boarded up, anticipating further unrest, but nobody was there.
A cop car wasn't spotted until several moments later, cruising west along Aliceanna Street near South Wolfe Street.
Things changed drastically further north, near a row of stores on Monument Street in Middle East, where there was a cluster of at least a half-dozen police cars. A group of six officers stood in a circle talking on the sidewalk.
One or two people were walking the streets further away from the police pow. At North Patterson Park Avenue near Mura Street, two police cars and a police van were pulled over to arrest two men for curfew violations.
"I'm just walking home! I don't even know this man," one of them exclaimed.
One of the officers brought the man, wearing a black shirt and jeans, over to the squad car parked just behind the van. Another officer took the other man, wearing a red shirt, and sat him on the back bumper of the van.
The man in the black shirt told the officers he lost his bus pass and had been walking since 9:45 p.m., and that he was only two blocks from his house. When the officers seemed unswayed by this, the man told a City Paper photographer: "Take pictures of this. Let people know what's happening in this city."
As this was happening, the man in the red shirt told a different officer he had been released from jail six hours ago. He said he'd been locked up since Monday and did not hear about the curfew. He was trying to get back to Brooklyn, far south of here.
Another car came up to offer support.
It was not clear why these two men, apparent strangers, were singled out while we'd driven by other people in East Baltimore who went untouched.
Both were loaded into the van and the officers made sure they were properly restrained. As if on cue, two young men walked up the sidewalk on the other side of Patterson. The group of officers briskly moved to detain them. The two men were cuffed and quickly brought over to join the others. As they were being loaded in, one of the officers said, "They're not messing around with this stuff, I'm telling you."
The cruisers and van departed. Back downtown, a group of four young women and a man walked by carrying what looked to be like a bag of carry-out food.
On North Charles Street among the brownstones of Mount Vernon, there was hardly any sign of a police presence.