Left to right, Keith Lovett, Melik Smith, Victoria Smith, Linda Smith and Antonio McDonald, hold candles during a gathering of people at the QuikTrip in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday (Aug. 14). Photo By David Carson, courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Left to right, Keith Lovett, Melik Smith, Victoria Smith, Linda Smith and Antonio McDonald, hold candles during a gathering of people at the QuikTrip in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday (Aug. 14). Photo By David Carson, courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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(RNS) In cities large and small, people across America came together to silently remember Michael Brown, a teen none knew in life but whose death Saturday sparked a wave of unrest in his Missouri hometown and raised questions about racial profiling and police militarization.

Attendees wore red ribbons to honor Brown, 18, at Thursday (Aug. 14) evening rallies from Maine to Michigan, Florida to New York, Vermont, Colorado and California.

Many shared their stories of alleged police brutality, and called for a new compact between officers and civilians.

Brown, who was black, was shot dead by a police officer Saturday (Aug. 9) in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. While local police have released few details about the circumstances of Brown’s death, his body lay in the street for hours. His death has drawn increasing national attention, first from civil unrest by furious residents, and then an increasingly heavy-handed police presence fueled by heavy social media attention.

Kenny Wiley, a youth minister who helped organize a vigil in Denver said Brown’s death is the most recent demonstration of what he called the “systemic inequality” facing young black men in America. Wiley, who is black, said the system feels stacked against some people who pay the price with their lives.

“It wasn’t in our city, but this is our country, our world,” said Wiley, 26. “We want to stand up and say enough is enough, and to mourn those who have lost their lives.” Wiley led about 100 people through a vigil that included the out-loud listing of names of black men killed by police and chants of “hands up, don’t shoot.”

In Greenville, S.C., about 200 people, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, gathered on a plaza in front of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts.

“This struggle has depth and breadth and history,” Jackson, a Greenville native, told the crowd. “And if the impact of his death wakes you up, he’s made a contribution.”

Jackson recalled as a child the lynching of a black mentally retarded man in 1947 in nearby Pickens County and called the shooting death of Michael Brown “a state execution.”

“If it’s done by an official with a badge on and a gun, it is a state execution,” he said.

Jackson said he was in town to visit his mother when he heard about the rally, organized by two young black men.

“This is a wake-up call,” he said. “I find a certain fascination with watching these young men and women be born again.

“This is the day of your birth,” he told Ricky Pulley, one of the organizers. “You were just now born again.”

Eric Wood, a white 51-year-old business owner from Greenville, held up a sign that said “Remember!” and “Protect & Serve. No one is above the law.”

“I’m a law-and-order guy,” he said. “I believe in the police, but there are bad cops.”

Ryan Thomas, a 31-year-old auto technician from Greenville, said he felt that if he didn’t take a stand here, far from Ferguson, that something like what happened to Brown could happen in Greenville.

“It’s a problem everywhere,” he said. “It’s not just one city, one state.”

At Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., Joann Mitchell, a 53-year-old mother of a young boy, was on the verge of tears imploring the crowd to do more than get angry.

“All this here,” she said, gesturing to poster boards with the faces of some police shooting victims, “is because we didn’t do nothing. You’ve got to stop. You’ve got to hold on to each other.”

She went on, “Vote. Stop letting them do it to us. Go to school, get your education and stop this, because no one else can stop it.”

In Indianapolis, Tiffany Pettiford brought her 8-year-old son, Joseph Duerson, to a rally in downtown’s Monument Circle that drew about 100 people. As the mother of a young black boy, Pettiford said, she lives with worry for her son.

“He could just be walking down the street in 10 years, minding his own business, matching the description of someone who did do something wrong, and all of a sudden it’s ‘Stop! Put your hands in the air!’,” she said. “And with his autism, he might get scared and run.”

In Burlington, Vt., Davaki Chayut said she felt “pretty frustrated and hopeless” over the militarization of police forces.

“I think it’s important as a community to speak for those who are not being heard, to speak for those who are persecuted, and it’s so complicated,” Chayut said.

The vigil in Phoenix took place on a sultry evening at Eastlake Park, a longtime hub for civil rights rallies and African-American events. There was no visible police presence. Names of alleged brutality victims were recited aloud, followed by a moment of silence.

“What’s it really mean to have justice?” asked Tia Oso, a co-organizer. “What’s it really mean to have justice? That’s why we’re here today.”

(Trevor Hughes writes for USA Today. Also contributing: Dennis Wagner of The Arizona Republic, Ron Barnett, The Greenville (S.C.) News, Dustin Racioppi, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Elizabeth Murrray of the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, Diana Penner of the Indianapolis Star.)




  1. While I am in no way in favor of gov power….the missouri pd has released 4 screen grabs from a convenience store showing suspected michael brown assaulting a much smaller clerk in a robbery the day of his death.

    I think it a bad thing brown died, but I doubt he was an angel while he was here.

      • I guess. I’m specifically drawing conclusions about Brown at this point…in relation to the memorials “hands up don’t shoot” stuff. The pics of him deceased in the street and the live camera footage from the store match.

        I think all it proves is that masses of people can be deceived. Its a shame. Its also a shame he died over theft.

  2. All that protesting, preaching, pontificating, and Presidential camera-mongering (and all that looting, all those molotov cocktails, and anonymous nightly gunfire aimed at police patrols.) What a waste. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, you’re a waste.

    All because of a young black man who was supposed to all angelic and cool and “going to college next week”, decides to beat up a much smaller store clerk and literally rob the store IN FRONT OF the store cameras.

    And THEN, not content with that, Mr. Michael Brown chooses to openly defy a simple “get the # out of the road” order from the policeman who had been sent to the robbery that Mr. Brown himself caused.

    All the crooked Mr. Brown had to do was just comply and walk over to the sidewalk, and he would be home free. The cop didn’t even know he was talking to the store robber.

    But no, Mr. Brown just HAD TO to show that one cop that he don’t take orders from cops. The rest, is history.

    • You show nothing but sick racial prejudice. You know nothing of fact about what took place. It’s been kept secret. We live in a secret society, not a democracy. People like you seem to prefer that to what our instituting documents and history have persistently tried to claim is democracy.

      The police chief of Ferguson, MO, must have hired you as his mouthpiece in an effort to build his department’s defense while they continue to hide all the facts.

      You’re guilty of what is deservedly called rash judgement.

      • “We live in a secret society, not a democracy” ?!?

        Come on now Gilhcan. You saw those store-camera photos just like I did. There’s nothing secret about them.

        Did you see the way Brown’s victim, who is visibly much smaller than Brown, is actually bent backwards by Brown’s arm? See how scared and cowering the clerk looks? That store clerk is being ASSAULTED, being BULLIED, right in front of you. Ain’t no secret society on that one.

        Store Cameras give you FACTS, Gilhcan. Like a black Michael Brown violently strong-arming and robbing and terrorizing and bullying a white (or other-color) man, right in front of you and me.

        Don’t bother accusing me of racial bigotry, because (possibly unlike you?) I AM black. And I am dog tired of black crooked street bullies who terrorize and assault innocent people of all colors. I agree that excessive force was used at the end, but Michael Brown caused his own demise when he committed his crime.

        (I don’t like the white or brown crooks either, but Black America should never be tolerating any crooks and bullies within OUR ranks at all. If we did OUR job on them, the police might not have to do THEIRS.)

        Why isn’t Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson doing fancy speeches on behalf of THAT brutalized store clerk’s civil rights? Why isn’t Obama getting back on-camera immediately, and speaking out for that clerk whose physical humiliation is now being watched all over the nation?

        Which of those “protestors” will now be honest and APOLOGIZE on-camera, for rushing to judgment before all the facts came out?

  3. All holding vigils for a private citizen of no special distinction that almost none of these people knew from a cord of wood. These people are displaying themselves. Let his family mourn him.

    (While we’re at it, their bloody social narrative has been decidedly compromised by security camera footage. This may end up looking awfully silly when all the information is on the table).

  4. This racial bigotry of our government at all levels, city, state, and federal must stop. The outrageous, blunt, bigoted racial prejudice in treatment, in all service must be ended promptly. It only continues because the white majority not only condones it, but it is white officials who participate in it and promoted it.

    It is white citizenry, my citizenry, who are hypocrites of any respectable so-called religious beliefs, who support this racial, bigoted, prejudiced hatred and behavior by white government entities, like the predominantly white government and police department of predominantly black Ferguson, MO.

    Consider just the recent long, non-stop string of violence against black and brown communities starting with the gangster killing of Treyvon Martin in Florida. And they get away with it. The whites get away with it. Then they dare to be angry about demonstrations of black and brown anger and defense. It is always disappointing and sad, it is downright wrong, that unfair behavior in our communities is not properly addressed by white officials. Their behavior is the cause of the unrest.

    Add to all that the hypocrisy of white resistance and anger toward the kids escaping from the murderous countries of Central America seeking safety, nurture, and peace here. We are all descendants of immigrants, by choice or by slave ships. And we dare to demonstrate one bit of resistance to others seeking the same refuge.

    Remove the plaque of Irving Berlin’s lyrics, “Give me your tired, your poor…I hold my lamp beside the golden door,” from the base of the Statue of Liberty. We are all hypocrites.

    When there was plenty of empty land we had stolen from the Native Americans, we were begging Europeans to come here. We were no better off than Central American countries then. We exploited the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese for slave wages–if we allowed them to work at all–but it was many generations before they obtained any semblance of acceptance.

    And the descendants of black people whom we dragged here on slave ships are still not accepted–because of their color difference. The brown people are right behind them. Who are the guilty ones? Who are the wrong ones? White people!

    The madness of our outlaw-country laws like “stand your ground” is nothing but a license to slaughter, as Treyvon Martin was slaughtered with no consequence. Our gun culture and the ability of the National Rifle Association to purchase influence at local, state, and federal levels is murderous, suicidal madness. That is what prevents appropriate action from being taken against the mass slaughter of citizens. Violence begets violence. It grows worse daily. It grows worse between all our lip service to religion and prayer and daily life. It grows worse in the face of the little democracy that ever existed in this country that is vanishing speedily every day.

    “We, the people…” are to blame. We hire corrupt politicians to do our governing. They in turn become nothing but whores to the johns of K St. in Washington, Wall St. in New York, and anyone with enough dollars they are willing to stuff into the political pockets. “We, the people…” accept that corrupt criminality, that murder, that slaughter, that violence. We form that corrupt government.

    Who’s to blame? Only “We, the people…”

    • Gilhcan,

      We won’t have to worry about this for much longer! 😀 God’s kingdom or heavenly government will put an end to all corrupt governments of man along with their greedy and selfish political and economical systems!

      It is evident, throughout man’s existence on earth, that power has been easily abused and that man has dominated over man to his injury (Ecclesiastes 8:9).

      The great news is that the rule by God’s kingdom over mankind will be loving, just and righteous. Man will be at peace with each other (Micah 4:3,4) and even the animals will be at peace with one another!! (Isaiah 11:1-9). The wicked ones who refuse to change will be non-existent (Psalm 37:10,11), and we finally discover “real life, happiness, peace and security”!!! 😀

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