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 passed by Gray’s silk-draped, white coffin where he lay dressed in a white shirt, black pants, white sneakers and an all-white Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap.
Above the lid to the coffin was a floral arrangement and inside the lid was a pillow with a screen-printed picture of Gray flanked by doves and the quote, “Peace, Y’all” at the bottom edge.
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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 son near Gray’s age.
“It hits home. It really does. It’s a reality check,” said Covington, whose son is 27.
Covington said that “there is something going on in the police department that needs to change.”
Gray’s funeral is planned for Monday.
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 news 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.