By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Police and angry teenagers faced off in Baltimore on Monday, hours after thousands of mourners called for justice and peace during the funeral of Freddie Gray, the latest flash point in the continuing unease between parts of the African-American community and police.
Television images showed protesters throwing rocks and other debris at police. In a message on Twitter, Baltimore police said several officers were injured. At least one injured officer was shown being taken from the scene.
Several vehicles were attacked.
The unrest slowly built up steam in the early afternoon, beginning with a few individuals confronting a phalanx of officers then growing to hundreds of people swarming through the area, which serves as a transportation hub for nearby schools and for the Mondawmin Mall.
A flier circulating on social media called for forceful confrontations Monday afternoon to begin at the mall then moving downtown toward City Hall. There have been a number of similar calls, many citing “The Purge,” a movie based on the idea of the suspension of all law.
The latest violence comes about two weeks after Gray was arrested by police and fatally injured in an incident that has enflamed the city. Over the weekend, 35 people were arrested and six officers injured in demonstrations.
Hours earlier, officials from city government to the White House attended the funeral service for Gray, who died April 19 of a severed spine, a week after he was arrested by police. Gray, hands cuffed behind his back and later restrained by leg irons, was apparently injured during transport, slipped into a coma, and died.
In a footnote to the growing unease, Baltimore police announced they had received a “credible threat” that three violent gangs, the Black Guerrilla Family, the Bloods, and the Crips, were working together to “take out” law enforcement officers. It was unknown if the threat was connected to Gray’s death.
Mourners gathered in the morning for the televised funeral service, which lasted almost two hours. It drew such dignitaries as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as well as a host of civil rights leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, former NAACP leader and Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume and current Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes.
Gray’s family sat in a front pew of the sanctuary that holds more than 2,000 people. Eight floral arrangements surrounded Gray’s white coffin in front of the pulpit. Screens on the walls showed the words: “Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter,” which have become slogans at demonstrations around the country in the past year since a white police officer shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. That case was followed by demonstrations over the deaths of blacks in Staten Island, Cleveland, Tulsa, Okla., and South Carolina.
“The eyes of this country are all on us, because they want to see whether we have the stuff to make this right,” William Murphy Jr., a lawyer who is representing the Gray family, told the mourners.
“We need justice not just for Freddie Gray, for the Freddie Grays to come,” he said.
“We will not rest until we address this and see that justice is done,” Cummings said of the Gray case. “And so, this is our watch. We will not fail you.”
The investigation is continuing into the incident that began April 12 when Gray was walking with a friend and made eye contact with police. Both fled and police gave chase, catching Gray.
Video of the arrest shows Gray with his hands cuffed behind him being put into the police van. The wagon stopped at least twice. At one stop, Gray was taken out by police, placed on the ground and his legs put in irons. He was returned to the van. At the second stop, another prisoner is put in the van, separated by a metal barrier.
Throughout, Gray said he needed medical attention and at one point asked for an inhaler, police said.
On Friday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he was appalled that Gray did not receive proper medical care immediately. He also said officers should have given Gray timely medical care during the transport to the police station.
Batts also said there are no excuses for Gray not being buckled in a seat belt while in the van.
Exactly what happened to Gray remains a mystery that will be answered when the full autopsy is released.
Officials have said he died of a severed spine, confirming the family’s original claim. The family also has said Gray’s voice box was crushed and his neck snapped before he slipped into a coma and died a week after his arrest.
Baltimore officials are scheduled to submit their findings into the death by Friday. Five of the six officers have been interviewed by police as have several witnesses, including some who shot video of at least one of the stops made by the van.
Erica Garner, 24, the daughter of Eric Garner, who died in New York police custody, attended Gray’s funeral. She said she came after seeing the video of Gray’s arrest.
“It’s like there is no accountability, no justice,” she said. “It’s like we’re back in the ’50s, back in the Martin Luther King days. When is our day to be free going to come?”
Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton said Monday he plans to visit Baltimore this week to discuss Gray’s death. In a statement, Sharpton said he also wants to plan a two-day march in May from Baltimore to Washington.
(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Screenshot via CNN