Obama aide to attend Gray funeral


Published: Monday 27th April 2015 by The News Editor

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The head of Barack Obama’s initiative for young black men will attend the funeral of a Baltimore man who died after receiving serious injuries in police custody .

Broderick Johnson, chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force and a Baltimore native, will represent the administration, accompanied by two other officials, at the funeral of Freddie Gray, 25, The White House announced.

Mr Gray died a week after an encounter with police left him with grave spinal injuries.

Meanwhile mourners paid their respects to Mr Gray, filing for hours past his coffin, following a night of violent protests in the Maryland city. Others also gathered outside the funeral home some holding signs that read “We remember Freddie” and “Our Hearts Are With The Gray Family”.

Mr Gray’s cousin Melissa McDonald, 36, who wore a shirt with “Freddie Forever” printed on the back, described him as a non-violent person.

“He didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” she said.

Several mourners including Tina Covington, 46, said they did not know the family but came to express their condolences.

Ms Covington, who has a 27-year-old son, said: “It hits home. It really does. It’s a reality check. There is something going on in the police department that needs to change.”

Earlier, at a service held at Empowerment Temple AME Church , which included members of Mr Gray’s family , Pastor Jamal Bryant said “somebody is going to have to pay” for Mr Gray’s death.

He said if “you’re black in America your life is always under threat”, and also talked about violence that erupted on Saturday night during what began as a peaceful demonstration attended by more than a thousand people.

But a smaller group broke off, looting a convenience store and smashing shop windows. A protester hurled a flaming metal dustbin towards police officers in riot gear trying to push back the crowd. Earlier, a group of protesters smashed windows of at least three police cars.

Thirty-four people were arrested, according to Baltimore police, and six officers received minor injuries.

Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called on 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.”

Elijah Cummings, a long-time congressman representing Baltimore’s 7th District, said “protest is indeed healthy”, but implored people to “be respectful”.

There were also reports of a journalist being attacked and another detained by police during the protests.

JM Giordano, a photo editor at Baltimore’s City Paper, said police beat him as he covered one of the demonstrations in west Baltimore. A video posted on the newspaper’s website shows at least two police officers in riot gear hitting and kicking Mr Giordano as the person filming screams: “He’s a photographer! He’s press!”

Sait Serkan Gurbuz, a photographer with Reuters, said police detained him as he was shooting photographs of the scuffle. Reuters said police also cited Mr Gurbuz for failure to obey orders.

“We hope that the department will dismiss the citation and, going forward, respect the First Amendment right of the press to lawfully take images in the public interest,” the news agency said.

Mr Gray’s death on April 19, a week after officers chased him through a West Baltimore neighbourhood and dragged him into a police van, has prompted near-daily demonstrations.

Police acknowledged on Friday that Mr Gray should have received medical attention at the spot where he was arrested before he was put inside the van handcuffed and without a seat belt – against police department policy.

He was arrested after he made eye contact with officers and ran away, police said. 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 have said.

Mr 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 Mr Gray’s spine was injured.

Published: Monday 27th April 2015 by The News Editor

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