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Thousands Say Goodbye To Freddie Gray In Baltimore

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Thousands Say Goodbye To Freddie Gray In Baltimore

Law

Thousands Say Goodbye To Freddie Gray In Baltimore

Thousands Say Goodbye To Freddie Gray In Baltimore

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Thousands of mourners packed a Baptist church in Baltimore Monday at the funeral service for Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal cord injuries last week while in police custody.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Protests in Baltimore turned violent today. Rocks and bricks have been thrown. There are reports of looting, and police say they are promising to take any precautions necessary to assure public safety.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC KOWALCZYK: You're going to see tear gas. You're going to see pepper balls. We're going to use appropriate methods to ensure that we're able to preserve the safety of that community.

SIEGEL: At a downtown news conference, police captain Eric Kowalczyk also said that seven officers have been hurt in the clashes. Some suffered broken bones. He said one officer is unresponsive. The violence erupted just hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray. He's the 25-year-old black man who died last week in police custody. Thousands attended his services today at the New Shiloh Baptist Church. NPR's Jennifer Ludden was there.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: A long line to get in the church started well before the service, some in black suits and dresses, many in jeans, caps, sweatshirts. One woman spotted rival gang members who don't know church, she said, but this brought them together. Inside the church, Ephelyn Smith was writing condolence cards for Gray's family members. She says she took two buses and lost her way, but didn't want to miss this.

EPHELYN SMITH: I just felt a strong need to be here. Freddie Gray's death is such a tragedy. It goes beyond just being a tragedy. We're making history here in Baltimore, Md.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The Lord giveth.

CROWD: The Lord giveth.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And the Lord taketh away.

CROWD: And the Lord taketh away.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And the Lord taketh away.

LUDDEN: One of the first speakers was a last-minute addition, lawyer Billy Murphy who's representing the Gray family.

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BILLY MURPHY: You know, most of us are not here because we knew Freddie Gray, but we're all here because we know lots of Freddie Grays.

LUDDEN: Let's not kid ourselves, Murphy said, we wouldn't be here if not for cell phone video cameras. He invoked the frustration of many that two weeks after Gray's death, police say they still don't know how his spinal cord was severely injured.

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MURPHY: So we're calling for the police - the six of them who are at least being partially, if not totally implicated, to come forward and tell it all, just like you tell our citizens to do.

LUDDEN: Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson also attended. A group of relatives of other black men killed by police drove overnight from New York City to come. Many of those in the pews and on the altar spoke of their own relatives who've been killed, either by police or in the endemic violence they say plagues poor black neighborhoods. Reverend Jamaal Bryant said Freddie Gray was no doubt frustrated by the constraints so many young black men in America face.

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JAMAAL BRYANT: One of the greatest tragedies in life is to think that you are free, but to still be confined to a box, living in a box of stereotypes, other people's opinion, sweeping generalizations and racial profiling.

LUDDEN: Bryant noted that Baltimore police have said they chased and detained Freddie Gray after he saw them and ran.

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BRYANT: And your son, in a subtlety of revolutionary stance, did something black men were trained and taught, no, not to do. He looked police in the eye.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Singing) You are the source of my strength. You are...

LUDDEN: The family should be proud, he said. He urged them not to cry. Freddie Gray's death is not in vain, Bryant said. We're going to keep marching. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Baltimore.

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