​Crowd gathers for Freddie Gray funeral following weekend of protests

Mourners pay their respects at the open casket of 25-year old Freddie Gray prior to his funeral services at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015 (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)
Thousands of mourners gathered at a church in Baltimore, Maryland, to attend the funeral proceedings for Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died last Sunday from injuries sustained a week earlier while in police custody.

Services for Gray began Monday morning at New Shiloh Baptist Church, with thousands expected to attend, including officials from the White House and relatives of Eric Garner, the African-American man who died last August in the custody of the New York Police Department.

The walls of New Shiloh on Monday were illuminated with the words “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” during Monday’s service as attendees lined up to pay their respects while a choir of more than 40 sang gospel tunes.

“Freddie’s death is not in vain,” Rev. Jamal Bryant said in a eulogy that the Wall Street Journal described as “forceful.”

“After this day, we are going to keep on marching. After this day, we are going to keep on demanding justice. After this day, we are going to keep exposing our culture of corruption,” Bryant continued.

Many of the more than 3,000 attendees had never met Gray.

“This particular story struck a huge chord with me,” Baltimore resident David Jones told WJZ. “It tugged at my heart to the point that I had to come out and at least pay respects for him.”

“I have a grandson who is 18,” said Baltimorean Sylvia Gee, “and I’m really afraid for him to go out into the street – you know- cause you don’t know who’s against you or for you.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) was one of several elected officials who attended Gray’s funeral.

“We will not rest until we address this and see that justice is done,” he told the crowd gathered at New Shiloh Baptist Church. “We will not fail you.”

“I’m used to a lot of cameras. I ain’t seen this many cameras in a long time,” Cummings said. “As I thought about the cameras, I wondered: Did anybody recognize Freddie when he was alive?”

Patricia Wudel, 62, who was among the few white mourners at the church, drove to the service from her home in Washington, DC, she told the Washington Post as she clutched a dozen red roses in her hand.

“I’m devastated by his death,” Wudel said, her voice tearful. “His death was tragic and wrong. This church should be filled with white people showing solidarity.”

Erica Garner, 24, the daughter of Eric Garner, who died in New York police custody, attended Gray's funeral, AP reported. She said she came after seeing video of Gray's arrest, which she said reminded her of her father's shouts that he could not breathe when he was being arrested on a city street.

"It's like there is no accountability, no justice," she said afterwards. "It's like we're back in the `50s, back in the Martin Luther King days. When is our day to be free going to come?"

Gray will be buried nearby later in the day.

READ MORE: Bad day in Baltimore: Reporters beaten, detained by police, RT contributor robbed (VIDEO)

On April 12, Gray was apprehended by members of the Baltimore Police Department after fleeing on foot from a cluster of officers. He suffered a severe injury to his spinal cord while in the custody of the BPD and died a week later. Six police officers remain suspended pending the results of an internal investigation into the affair.

Protests erupted across Baltimore after Gray’s arrest and intensified following his death. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the family of Freddie Gray have urged protesters to remain peaceful, but police reportedly arrested dozens over the weekend when rallies turned violent.