Wake for Freddie Gray Held After Night of Scuffles in Baltimore
The vast majority of protesters who took to Baltimore’s streets late Saturday were peaceful, but the handful who weren’t left behind shards, rubble, and dents.
The demonstration was aimed at police, who had Gray in their custody when he suffered injuries that would claim his life.
Baltimore police said at least 34 people were arrested and six officers suffered minor injuries during the latest protest.
Before Sunday’s wake, Gray’s family members called for agitators to stop the destruction.
“My family wants to say, ‘Can y’all please, please stop the violence,'” said his sister Fredericka Gray on Saturday night. “Freddie Gray would not want this.”
News of her brother’s smashed upper spine and officers’ delay in getting him medical care has triggered outrage, and people are demanding justice for the latest-known African-American man to die violently after an encounter with white police officers.
Agitators, riot gear
For a week, they have spilled into Baltimore’s streets in peaceful demonstrations.
And on Saturday, they continued. Marchers chanted in unison, “All night, all day; we’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray.” Poster board signs speckled the crowd. Some wore T-shirts reading “Black lives matter.”
The crowd marched up to a line of police, most of whom were not wearing riot gear. Officers and squad cars backed away, as the crowd chanted “Please go home.”
But the peaceful rapport came to an end when police in riot gear tried to hold a line, and a few protesters vandalized police cars, threw objects at officers, cursed at them and scuffled with them.
About a dozen young men smashed squad cars with garbage cans, climbed on top of them and stomped on them, CNN video showed.
Commissioner thanks peacemakers
More police in riot gear moved in, forming a line many officers thick and raising their transparent shields, as officers on horseback backed them up.
And some protesters put themselves between police and enraged demonstrators to calm hot tempers. “Don’t lose the message!” one of them called out again and again to the rowdier group.
Police commissioner Anthony Batts thanked the peacemakers.
“Residents put themselves in between police officers and agitated crowd and asked for calm and asked for peace, which was very good to see,” he said.
But a small group smashed store windows, police said.
Looting, stranded Orioles fans
The planned demonstration culminated in speeches at City Hall in the evening. But after nightfall, jagged holes gaped in smashed windows at shops and bars, and large shards of glass covered their floors and sidewalks.
Inside a 7-Eleven store, shelves lay overturned and smashed, with wares looted or strewn across the floor. Police officers in protective helmets stood guard outside the door and looked for ways to board up the store.
As darkness brought rain and 40-degree temperatures, police faced the last dozens of protesters, while baseball fans sat stranded in their seats at a Baltimore Orioles’ game.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. Due to an ongoing public safety issue, the mayor of Baltimore city and the Baltimore city Police Department have asked all fans to remain inside the ballpark until further notice,” an announcer told the crowd.
Earlier, they had to get past protests as they entered the park to watch the game against the Boston Red Sox.
When the all-clear echoed out of the PA system, visitors were advised to avoid certain sections of town nearby as they exited the stands.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was frustrated over the troublemakers, but encouraged the overwhelming peaceful majority,
“After a week of peaceful demonstrations, I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening,” she said. “I’m grateful to the many demonstrators who made their opinions known in a peaceful manner.”
Police have exchanged criticism among themselves over the treatment of Gray and the investigation, as most of the officers involved in the arrest gave statements to investigators.
Batts said he was appalled that Gray did not receive proper care immediately. There were no excuses, he said.
The Fraternal Order of Police shot back.
“These comments appear to be politically driven and in direct contrast to the commissioner’s own request not to jump to any conclusions until the entire investigation is complete,” Gene Ryan, president of the organization, said in a written statement.
Police say five of the six officers involved in the arrest have provided statements to investigators. The sixth officer has invoked his right to refuse to answer questions, Batts said.
Gray arrested, then dead
On April 12, cellphone video recorded Gray’s arrest. Police have said they detained him in connection with drug suspicions. He has been arrested in the past on drug-related allegations.
A neighborhood surveillance camera showed what appeared to be Gray sitting calmly next to two officers. Later footage showed them over him as he lay on the concrete.
When officers lifted him, Gray howled in anguish, dragging his limp legs behind him, as officers carried him by his arms to a paddy wagon. Neighbors cried out that Gray appeared to be injured.
Various outdoor surveillance cameras recorded the van driving through the neighborhood — with at least one stop. It took nearly 40 minutes to arrive at a police station with the distressed 25-year-old. He was not buckled in properly, authorities have said.
His family said his voice box had been crushed and his neck snapped. After a week in a hospital intensive care unit and emergency surgery, Gray died.
The preliminary work on his autopsy has been done, but the medical examiner’s office is waiting on toxicology results and may invite spinal experts to look at the case. A full report may take 30 to 45 days.
Gray is to be laid to rest on Monday.