Riots erupt after the funeral of Baltimore man who died in police custody

Riots erupt after the funeral of Baltimore man who died in police custody
April 27
00:00 2015

Demonstrators throw rocks at the police after the funeral of Freddie Gray on Monday, April 27, 2015, at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Chronicle Staff Report

National media are reporting that riots erupted today, Monday, April 27, after the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died in Baltimore while in police custody.

The New York Times is reporting that police officers in riot gear clashed with rock-throwing protesters on Monday in a neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore, hours after Gray was laid to rest amid emotional calls for justice and peace.

At least seven officers were injured and one was “unresponsive,” Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk of the Baltimore Police told reporters.

The violence broke out in the Mondawmin neighborhood, near the New Shiloh Baptist Church, where friends, neighbors, activists and government officials from the local level to the White House — as well as civil rights leaders like the Jesse Jackson and Dick Gregory — had gathered in the morning to eulogize Gray.

Groups of angry young people surrounded a police cruiser and smashed it in; another cruiser could be seen burning. A drugstore was also looted. Other protesters pelted the police with items picked up at nearby vacant lots — rocks, bricks, boards and chunks of concrete. Some arrests were made.

Police said earlier in the day that they had received a “credible threat” of violence against law enforcement officers, and Captain Kowalczyk told reporters here that authorities would take “appropriate measures” to keep officers and the neighborhood safe. Warned by the police of possible violence, the University of Maryland campus in downtown Baltimore closed early as did Mondawmin Mall.

Earlier, thousands of mourners crowded into a church here on Monday to bid an emotional goodbye to Mr. Gray, who died April 19 of a spinal cord injury while in police custody.

The Rev. Jamal Bryant, delivering the eulogy, spoke of the plight of poor, young black men like Mr. Gray, living “confined to a box” made up of poor education, lack of job opportunities and racial stereotypes — “the box of thinking all black men are thugs and athletes and rappers.”

“He had to have been asking himself: ‘What am I going to do with my life?’” the Mr. Bryant said. “He had to feel at age 25 like the walls were closing in on him.”

As his voice rose to a shout, and the cheering congregation rose to its feet, Mr. Bryant said that black people must take control of their lives and force the police and government to change. “This is not the time for us as a people to be sitting on a corner drinking malt liquor. This is not the time for us to be playing lottery,” he said.

“Get your black self up and change this city,” he said. “I don’t know how you can be black in America and be silent. With everything we’ve been through, ain’t no way in the world you can sit here and be silent in the face of injustice.”

He also took a swipe at the news media for heavy coverage of scattered violence that marred protests over the weekend. “It’s easy for the news to capture young people rioting and looting. It’s easy to show that, but you ain’t ever going to say why,” he said.

“When society is sick and mean, the innocent will be slain,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson told the congregation. He noted the contrast between Baltimore’s poor, overwhelmingly black west side, and the city’s bustling, prosperous downtown.

“You’re going to see tear gas, you’re going to see pepper balls, we’re going to use appropriate methods to make sure we an preserve the safety of that community,” Captain Kowalczyk said during a televised news conference. “We’re going to use appropriate measures to assure the safety of that community.”

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