In Baltimore, mourners have gathered to remember a 25-year-old black man who died last week in police custody. Freddie Gray’s death has brought thousands to the city's downtown to protest police violence.
Freddie Gray's wake comes a day after the largest demonstration since he died on April 19 following a spinal injury sustained in police custody one week earlier. Standing in the street outside of the wake on Sunday, a small group of people held signs reading "Honk for Freddie." Passing cars frequently sounded their horns.
On Friday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said officers had failed to give Gray timely medical attention for the spinal injury he suffered while in their custody. With his death, the 25-year-old joined a long list of black men killed under questionable circumstances during police encounters and became at least the fifth black man to die in police encounters in Baltimore since Batts took charge.
Last year, a Baltimore Sun investigation revealed that the city had paid $5.7 million (5.2 million euros) in brutality settlements involving 102 instances since 2011. In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reached an $870,000 settlement requiring Baltimore police to track arrests, but a 2012 audit found that officers couldn't justify 35 percent of them. Batts previously asked the Justice Department to review Baltimore police's policies procedures, and the top US law enforcement agency has now opened a second investigation: into Gray's death.
Recent incidents across the US have triggered outcry over police violence, especially against black men. Last year, weeks of protests followed the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City.
A week before Gray sustained his fatal injury in police custody in Baltimore, a white officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, shot an unarmed black man eight times as he ran away. Days before that, a white reserve police officer in the Dust Bowl state of Oklahoma claimed he had meant to use a taser on a restrained black man, but accidentally killed him with his handgun.
Mayor 'profoundly disappointed'
Protesters have called for Baltimore to prosecute the six officers involved in Gray's death. On Saturday, 2,000 marched against brutality, bearing signs that read "Jail Killer Police!" and filling two blocks en route to City Hall. About 100 split off and threw objects at police officers and their cruisers, according to authorities. Officers arrested 34 people, and Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who has called for answers in Gray's death, said agitators had disrupted the otherwise peaceful political action.
"I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening," Blake said of the splinter group of protesters.
Fredericka Gray, Freddie's twin sister, joined Rawlings-Blake in urging calm following days of protests: "Freddie's father and mother do not want violence," she said. "Violence does not get justice."
Funeral services for Gray will be held Monday morning, followed by his burial.
mkg/gsw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)