BALTIMORE, April 25 (UPI) -- Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Saturday in what is being called the largest demonstration yet over the death of Freddie Gray.
The march brought out scores of people on the day after the Baltimore Police Department acknowledged it failed to get the 25-year-old man prompt medical attention for a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Gray died Sunday, a week after his arrest. Family members said his spinal cord was 80 percent severed and his voice box was crushed.
Protesters had vowed to "shut down" the city, and chanted "Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail," and "All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray."
"The voice of pain and suffering in Baltimore will be heard today," said Malik Shabazz, a founder and the president of Black Lawyers for Justice. "The focus will be on Freddie Gray and how his back and spine were broken, and how the cover-up must end today."
Friday, Baltimore police said Gray was not given timely medical care after he was arrested and was not buckled into a seat belt while being transported in a police van. Shabazz has demanded the arrest of six officers involved. The officers are suspended with pay while under criminal investigation by the police department. The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the case for possible civil-rights violations. The Gray family is conducting its own probe
Gray was arrested April 12 after running from police. He was tackled to the ground by police, handcuffed and dragged to a police van. A bystander recorded the arrest on a cellphone.
The Saturday protest drew participants from around the country including Ferguson, Mo.; New York City; and Washington, D.C. with organizations that included the New Black Panther Party, the World Socialist Party and the Peoples Power Assemblies. Protesters marched from the West Baltimore housing project where Gray was arrested to City Hall downtown.
At one point Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts walked into a crowd to tell reporters his reforms were ongoing and he sought to change the culture. The crowd shouted back, "There's blood on your hands" and "sell out!"
Ongoing demonstrations since Gray's death have been largely peaceful, but some worry that will change once police determine the fate of the six officers involved. Florence Lee, who lives in the same housing project where Gray was arrested, said she worries the tone will change if they are not charged in Gray's death.
"It's going to be something terrible if they don't receive justice," she told the Baltimore Sun.
Funeral services for Gray are scheduled for Monday at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore.