Mourners gathered Monday for the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died after suffering serious spinal injuries in the custody of Baltimore police — which sparked protests and confrontations with authorities over the weekend.
Services began at around 11 a.m. for Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died April 19 after an encounter with police days earlier. 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 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.
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 Broderick Johnson — a Baltimore native and the chairman of My Brother's Keeper, President Barack Obama's initiative for young men of color — would attend the funeral, along with two other administration officials.
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.
His 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 the 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," she said. "Together we can be one Baltimore and seek answers as we seek justice and as we seek peace."
Gray's death has prompted nearly 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 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 the van handcuffed and without a seat belt — a violation of department policy.
The Associated Press