My first indication that things would be different at Baltimore’s North and Pennsylvania Avenues this evening came when I met Crystal Smith and Jessica Mullen. “Hey!” Crystal called to me, wearing a Baltimore Ravens t-shirt, standing three blocks away from a CVS that was burned and looted just last night (and again today). “Wanna help us move the camel?”

It’s possible—likely, even—that violence was happening elsewhere in Baltimore as I approached the epicenter of last night’s riot, but it definitely wasn’t happening here.

Crystal and Jessica, both native Baltimoreans, had a five-foot-long statue of a camel strapped to the roof of their Mitsubishi. The hulking plastic animal was missing all of its legs, but it was still unwieldy; they weren’t sure how to get it to the intersection of North and Pennsylvania Avenues. “We want to translate the message of the people who were burning and looting last night in a peaceful way,” Crystal told me. It was unclear to me how the camel was going to accomplish that lofty and complex goal, but Crystal had no doubts about its power. “My neighbors put it out on the curb to throw away, and I’ve had it in my house for about a week and a half,” she said. “I knew it had a purpose.”

Shortly thereafter, a convoy of cars turned the corner from North Avenue onto Druid Hill, their drivers flashing peace signs from the windows. “Stop the riots!” one man yelled as he drove by. “We’re here for peace!” Two blocks further west, under an awning that last night was used to shelter a reporter who had been jumped and robbed by a rioter, someone had set up an impromptu car wash.

And a block beyond that was Pennsylvania and North, where two police cars burned 24 hours ago. Tonight, people were partying. At around 6:30 p.m., when a woman walking away from the intersection told me that there was “New Orleans-style” music being played, I didn’t expect a full-fledged live brass band. But there they were, playing in the middle of the street.

[There was a video here]

Amid a crowd of hundreds of peaceful and jubilant people, I spotted a young woman in front of the CVS holding a sign that read: “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage,” a modified James Baldwin quote. “They asked for peace, they got it,” she told me. “It’s like a block party!” added one of her companions.

It was the most heavily secured block party I’ve ever seen. Police helicopters buzzed overhead while lines of tactical gear-clad cops stood on both North and Pennsylvania Avenues. Two cops confirmed that the assembly had been nonviolent all day. “All day, it’s been peaceful,” one said. “Other than a couple of little incidents, it’s been peaceful.”

Standing in front of the line of riot cops was a line of middle-aged men. They were there, one man said, to provide a buffer between the police and the congregated citizens. “If there was no buffer, the situation could escalate like it did yesterday,” he said. “Yesterday was a day for the community’s voice to be heard,” he added when I remarked on the astounding difference between last night and tonight. “Today, it’s being heard in a different way.”

Standing in front of those middle-aged men was writer and television personality Touré.

At 6:55 p.m., a column hundreds of people long began marching north on Pennsylvania. They chanted a call-and-response: “We want peace!/I love Baltimore!”

[There was a video here]

The crowd marched north on Pennsylvania Avenue, turned right on Fulton Avenue, and right again on Druid Hill Avenue, ending at the Cloverdale basketball courts, where a nonviolent gathering of young people had been taking place all afternoon. Kids were skateboarding and playing basketball, and an MC with a microphone urged the drivers of an orange Pontiac and a white Audi to move their double parked cars lest they be towed. “I want the helicopters to hear us,” urged another man over the speakers before leading the crowd in the “We want peace” chant. “I want everyone we think we hate to hear us. I want everyone we think hates us to hear us. I want everyone we love to hear us.”

A third man—or maybe the first guy again, I could only hear them over the speakers—took the mic. “I love my white brothers. I love my black brothers. This was never about dividing the community. This was a message to the government, the biggest gang in the world.”

Back at North and Penn, a drumline was playing, accompanied by dancers. A handful of kids had climbed on top of the Metro station at the intersection, and a voice from a police helicopter ordered them to get down. They did.

[There was a video here]