More than 2,000 people packed into Baltimore’s New Shiloh Baptist Church today to mourn the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died on Sunday, April 19 after sustaining fatal injuries while in police custody.
In addition to Gray’s family and friends, civil rights activists, White House delegates and the family of Eric Garner were present at the services. Hanging in the sanctuary was a sign that read, “Black Lives Matter.”
“I’ve often said that our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said at the funeral. “But now, our children are sending us to a future they will never see. There’s something wrong with that picture.”
Video footage of a portion of Gray’s controversial arrest has circulated nationwide, showing police officers dragging him into a police van. Reports later revealed that Gray had suffered a severed spine prior to his death. William Murphy, the Gray family lawyer, asked that bystanders continue “stepping up to the plate” when witnessing these confrontations. He also called for police departments across the country to adopt more body cameras.
In the week since his death, hundreds of demonstrators have been protesting, demanding justice, but they had initially been met with silence from the police department. In a police report that was filed shortly after Gray’s arrest, officers wrote that the arrest occurred without “force or incident,” and until recently, the department had not released a statement.
On Friday, Baltimore Commissioner Anthony Batts broke the silence, saying that officers should have provided Gray with medical attention immediately after his arrest. Though he didn’t clarify what happened in the 30 minutes between Gray’s arrest and the time officers called an ambulance to assist Gray at the station, Batts did say that officers did not strap him in with a seatbelt in the police van.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has promised to conduct a thorough and honest investigation. “In order to have justice and not just seek justice, the investigation needs to follow procedures,” she said. “We have to be able to follow up on leads, and they have to be as thorough as possible.”