In US, mourners filed for hours for farewell to black man who died in custody of Baltimore police

April 27, 2015 2:14 pm

 

Demonstrators protest in the streets as they march for Freddie Gray to Baltimore’s City Hall on Saturday. Photo / AP

Mourners filed for hours Sunday past the coffin of the man who died
after sustaining serious injuries in the custody of Baltimore police,
somberly paying respects after a night of violent protests.
All
afternoon, a steady stream of people entered the funeral home for a wake
for Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died a week after an
encounter with police left him with grave spinal injuries.
Mourners
also gathered outside the funeral home, Vaughn Green East. Some held up
signs that read, “We remember Freddie” and “Our Hearts Are With The
Gray Family.”
Melissa McDonald, 36, who said she was Gray’s
cousin, wore a shirt with “Freddie Forever” printed on the back. She
described her cousin as a nonviolent person.
“He didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” she said.

Several mourners like Tina Covington, 46, said they didn’t
know the family but came to express their condolences. Covington said
she has a 27-year-old son.
“It hits home. It really does. It’s a
reality check,” said Covington, adding “there is something going on in
the police department that needs to change.”
Gray’s funeral is planned for Monday.
In
Washington, the White House said the head of President Barack Obama’s
initiative for young men of color would attend. Broderick Johnson,
chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force and a Baltimore native,
is to represent the administration accompanied by two other officials,
the White House said in a statement.
At a church service earlier
Sunday, Pastor Jamal Bryant told churchgoers, including members of
Gray’s family, at Empowerment Temple AME Church that “somebody is going
to have to pay” for Gray’s death.
Bryant told churchgoers that if
“you’re black in America your life is always under threat.” Bryant also
talked about violence that erupted Saturday night during what began as a
peaceful demonstration attended by more than a thousand people.
Some 34 people were arrested, according to Baltimore Police Department, and six police officers sustained minor injuries.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a conference Sunday evening and called on protesters to be peaceful.
“At
the end of the day we are one Baltimore. We need to support peaceful
demonstration and continue to enforce in our communities that rioting,
violence, and looting will not be tolerated in our city,” the mayor
said. “Together we can be one Baltimore and seek answers as we seek
justice and as we seek peace.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a long-time
congressman representing Baltimore’s 7th District, joined the mayor and
others at the news conference. He said that “protest is indeed healthy”
but he implored people to “be respectful.”
Earlier Sunday, J.M.
Giordano — a photo editor at Baltimore’s City Paper — said Baltimore
police beat him as he covered one of the protests in west Baltimore. A
video posted to the newspaper’s website Sunday shows at least two police
officers in riot gear hitting and kicking Giordano as the person
filming screams, “He’s a photographer! He’s press!”
Sait Serkan
Gurbuz, a photographer with Reuters, said police detained him as he was
shooting photographs of the scuffle. He declined to comment further. A
statement from Reuters said police also cited Gurbuz for failure to obey
orders.
“We hope that the department will dismiss the citation
and, going forward, respect the First Amendment right of the press to
lawfully take images in the public interest,” Reuters said.
Roughly
1,200 protesters gathered at City Hall on Saturday afternoon, officials
said, to protest Gray’s death, which has prompted near-daily
demonstrations since he died April 19. Gray was arrested one week before
that when officers chased him through a West Baltimore neighborhood and
dragged him into a police van.
However, a smaller group
splintered off and looted a convenience store and smashed storefront
windows. A protester tossed a flaming metal garbage can toward police
officers in riot gear trying to push back the crowd. Earlier, a group of
protesters smashed windows of at least three police cars.
Police
acknowledged Friday that Gray should have received medical attention at
the spot where he was arrested — before he was put inside a police
transport van handcuffed and without a seat belt, a violation of the
Police Department’s policy.
Gray was arrested after he made eye
contact with officers and ran away, police said. Officers held him down,
handcuffed him and loaded him into the van. While inside, he became
irate and leg cuffs were put on him, police have said.
Gray asked
for medical help several times, beginning before he was placed in the
van. After a 30-minute ride that included three stops, paramedics were
called.
Authorities have not explained how or when Gray’s spine was injured.

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