Activist Pastor Jamal Bryant Tells Congregation, ‘Someone Has to Pay’ for Freddie Gray’s Death

Pastor Jamal Bryant
Pastor Jamal Bryant

The family of Freddie Gray began formally saying goodbye Sunday with a wake held hours after a largely peaceful protest over his death disintegrated into chaos on Baltimore streets.

The funeral for Gray, a black man who died one week ago of injuries sustained in police custody, will take place Monday.

“He left behind a grief-stricken family, a heart-broken fiancée, and a sorrowful step-daughter-to-be,” says a website accepting donations it says will help defray medical and burial costs. “The Gray family appreciates your support.”

The police department promised extra security following Saturday’s upheaval, tweeting, “Extra officers will be deployed downtown and across Baltimore to ensure everyone’s safety during the rest of the weekend and into next week.”

Activist Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple AME Church, told his congregation Sunday that “somebody is going to have to pay” for Gray’s death, the Associated Press reported.

If “you’re black in America, your life is always under threat,” Bryant said.

Saturday’s rally began as a peaceful protest of more than 1,000 people. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he moved through the crowd, promising that his office was “making deep systemic changes in the culture of this organization. The people were very receptive.”

Batts, who is black, said Sunday that 34 people were arrested and six officers injured in tense confrontations after the organized protest had essentially wrapped up. He has blamed the violence on “agitators.”

“They became very violent. They began to throw objects,” Batts said Saturday night. “They picked up aluminum barricades and smashed windows at our bars and pubs.”

He said some residents moved between police and the angry crowd, urging the protesters not to damage the city. He commended police officers for showing “tremendous restraint” and city residents for helping tamp down the unrest.

“I am proud of our residents and our police officers,” Batts said. “The vast majority of residents out here did a good job. … A small number of people felt like they had to turn this into an ugly day.”

Thousands of fans were temporarily trapped inside the Baltimore Orioles baseball stadium Saturday night as “ongoing public safety issues” prevented fans from leaving the ballpark, the team said. An all-clear announcement was made before the game ended.

Batts emphasized that the 1,200 officers providing security Saturday had no interest in curbing the right to freedom of expression. His department tweeted: “We are continuing to facilitate everyone’s First Amendment rights to protest and be heard. Please remain peaceful.”

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SOURCE: USA Today – John Bacon