Thousands Expected At Freddie Gray Funeral
BALTIMORE (AP) – Thousands were expected Monday at a funeral for a man who died after suffering serious spinal injuries while in the custody of Baltimore police.
Services were planned for 11 a.m. EDT for Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died April 19 after an encounter days earlier with police left him with grave spinal injuries. Pastor Jamal Bryant, who was to deliver Gray’s eulogy, said he expected Baltimore’s New Shiloh Baptist Church to be filled for the service.
A small group of mourners was lined up about two hours ahead of the funeral. As they began filing into the church, the white casket with Gray’s body was opened, flanked by floral arrangements. A rope was placed in front of the casket to prevent people from getting too close. One person used a cellphone to take a photo of the body.
Placed atop Gray’s body was a white pillow with a screened picture of him. A projector aimed at two screens on the walls showed the words “Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter.”
On Sunday, the White House said the head of President Barack Obama’s initiative for young men of color would attend the funeral. Broderick Johnson, chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force and a Baltimore native, is to be joined by two other administration officials, according to the White House.
At Gray’s wake Sunday, mourners who didn’t even know him filed in a steady stream for hours into a funeral home. Some supporters stood outside with 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.
Gray’s wake followed demonstrations Saturday that turned violent. Roughly 1,200 protesters rallied outside City Hall on Saturday afternoon, officials said. A smaller group splintered off and looted a convenience store and smashed storefront windows. A protester tossed a flaming metal garbage can toward a line of police officers in riot gear as they tried to push back the crowd. Earlier, a group of protesters smashed the windows of at least three police cars.
Some 34 people were arrested, according to Baltimore Police Department, and six police officers sustained minor injuries.
During a news conference Sunday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for 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.”
Gray’s death has prompted near-daily demonstrations. Gray was arrested one week before he died when officers chased him through a West Baltimore neighborhood and dragged him into a police van.
Police said Gray was arrested after he made eye contact with officers and ran away. 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.
Police acknowledged Friday that Gray should have received medical attention on 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.
Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.