Freddie Gray's Funeral In Baltimore Is Attended By Thousands In Mourning
Thousands of people filed silently by a white coffin holding the body of 25-year-old Freddie Gray during his funeral in Baltimore Monday morning, according to The New York Times. Gray died from a spinal cord injury after being taken into custody by police on April 12, for reasons that police have yet to specify, according to ABC News. The words "Black Lives Matter" were projected in capital letters on New Shiloh Baptist Church where his funeral was held, and, though there was seating for 2,200 people, the Times said most people were standing to crowd into the space. The White House also sent a delegation of its own to attend.
According to the Times and The Huffington Post, the church was filled with Gray's friends and family, but also with visiting activists, such as Jesse Jackson, and government officials like Broderick Johnson, chairman of President Barack Obama's initiative My Brother's Keeper. ABC News reported a female relative believed to be Gray's mother, Gloria Darden, cried out "Oh my baby! My baby!" as his relatives filed through the church. According to the Associated Press, mourners also gathered outside and held signs that read "We remember Freddie" and "Our Hearts Are With The Gray Family." ABC said the church estimated that about 3,000 people attended the funeral.
Melissa McDonald, Gray's cousin, wore a shirt with "Freddie Forever" printed on the back. She told the AP her cousin was a nonviolent person who "didn't deserve to die the way he did" and described him to the congregation before the funeral began, according to the Times:
He was just bubbly. He was a good student. He had dreams. He had aspirations. He didn't want to be in the hood forever. No, he didn't make the best choices, but he was a loving spirit and a giving soul.
The funeral took place just after a weekend of largely peaceful protests in Baltimore, as citizens demanded to know just what happened that caused Gray to suffer such a deadly injury in police custody. Baltimore City Police told ABC News that there were 34 arrests from Saturday afternoon through the early morning hours of Sunday and that six police officers suffered minor injuries.
As people were searching for seats at Gray's funeral, the Baltimore police announced through a press release that there was a "credible threat" against police officers, because, the notice said, street gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, and Black Guerrilla Family "have entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers."
The Times said the release stood in stark contrast to what was happening in the church: a mass mourning of a young man who died a mysterious death, and a growing demand for answers and change from law enforcement and government officials. William Murphy Jr., a lawyer representing Gray's family in a case against the Baltimore police spoke to the congregation Monday, according to the Times:
The eyes of this country are all on us, because they want to see whether we have the stuff to make this right. They want to know whether our leadership is up to the task. They want to know whether we’re going to act as one people rather than a community divided by the superficialities of race.
Police haven't released why they took Gray into custody, but they told ABC News that Gray fled after officers made eye contact with them. They chased him by bike, according to the Times, and then cellphone video of his arrest showed him being dragged into a police transport van, "seemingly limp," and screaming in pain. According to The Baltimore Sun, Gray did not receive medical assistance for about 45 minutes after his arrest. Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has since released a statement in a press conference, according to the Sun:
We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses from me. Period. We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.
Attorney Jason Downs told ABC News that police will not release communication traffic logs or 911 tapes from Gray's arrest, and that there "is no legal reason" for them to withhold that evidence.
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, said too many young people are dying at the hands of police without explanation and quoted the Bible during Gray's service, according to USA Today:
I've often said that our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see. But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see. There's something wrong with that picture! Do you know what I want? I want justice, oceans of it. I want fairness, rivers of it. That's all. That's what Freddie wanted.
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