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Attorney General Visits Baltimore and Gray's Family

  • VOA News

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, right, speaks with members of Congress and faith leaders at the University of Baltimore, in Maryland, May 5, 2015.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, right, speaks with members of Congress and faith leaders at the University of Baltimore, in Maryland, May 5, 2015.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Baltimore on Tuesday, meeting with relatives of the late Freddie Gray and pledging to government, law enforcement and civic leaders that the Justice Department would help the eastern U.S. city move forward after weeks of sometimes violent unrest following the young man's death.

"We're here to hold your hands and provide support," Lynch said, noting the support would include finding the best ways to improve the Baltimore Police Department.

Six officers were indicted Friday in the death of Gray, a 25-year-old black man. He was arrested April 12 and died a week later after sustaining injuries in police custody. Charges against the officers include second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault.

Lynch met privately at the University of Baltimore with Gray's relatives. The Gray family lawyer, William Murphy, said Lynch expressed her condolences for Gray's death, which she said "represents so many things."

The attorney general also met with faith and community leaders, including the Reverend Donte Hickman, who opened the meeting with a prayer. He's pastor of Southern Baptist Church, whose partially built senior center was burned to the ground in rioting that followed Gray's funeral April 27.

Praising police

And Lynch briefly met with Police Commissioner Anthony Batts before speaking with about a dozen police officers who were on duty when the violence erupted. The rioting prompted Maryland's governor to call in the National Guard.

"Thanks to all of you, I'm looking at the hardest-working police officers in America," Lynch told the officers, noting that they had entered a noble profession.

"We are here to help you work through these struggles. To all of you on the front lines, I want to thank you. You really have become the face of law enforcement."

Lynch took time to greet each officer individually before departing.

She was accompanied by other Justice Department officials: Vanita Gupta of the civil rights division, Ronald Davis of community-oriented policing services, and Grande Lum of the community relations service.

They also met with city officials and Maryland members of the U.S. Congress, including Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin and Representatives Elija Cummings, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger.

The congressional delegation thanked Lynch for visiting just two weeks after taking office.

"Last week was very painful for the people of Baltimore," Cardin told Lynch.

"This is a flashpoint situation," Lynch told the group.

She thanked the Baltimore leadership, calling it inspiring to see people come together to reclaim the city.

The Justice Department and FBI are conducting separate investigations of Gray's death for potential civil rights violations.

Of the six officers involved in Gray's arrest, three are African-American. The police union said it would fight the charges.

Obama urges rebuilding trust

President Barack Obama called on Monday for the rebuilding of trust between police and minority communities in the wake of last week's riots.

Appearing on CBS-TV's popular "Late Show With David Letterman," Obama said the lingering effects of slavery and racial discrimination continue to have a profound effect on many African-American communities.

"What you have are pockets of poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of education all across this country, and too often we ignore those pockets until something happens, and then we act surprised," he said.

During a meeting with minority youths earlier in the day, the president acknowledged that many young African-American and Latino men have the "odds stacked against them" from birth, and that they get uneven treatment from police.

He said that young men of color are stopped and thrown to the ground by police for no reason, and that such treatment leads to urban violence in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

Obama used the New York visit to announce the creation of My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization that is an outgrowth of a White House effort to increase opportunities for young men of color.

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