ST. LOUIS (RNS)  Justice was a recurring theme as thousands of mourners packed the mammoth Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church on Monday (Aug. 25) for the funeral of Michael Brown, a black teen whose fatal shooting following a confrontation with a white police officer set off weeks of sometimes violent protests.

 Activist and television show host Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at Greater Grace Church in Florissant on Sunday (Aug. 17), during a rally for justice for an unarmed teen shot by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer. Protests and anger have broken out in the Ferguson Community since Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last Saturday. Photo by Christian Gooden, courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Activist and television show host Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at Greater Grace Church in Florissant on Sunday (Aug. 17), during a rally for justice for an unarmed teen shot by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer. Protests and anger have broken out in the Ferguson Community since Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last Saturday. Photo by Christian Gooden, courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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The Rev. Al Sharpton, among the speakers, called for a “fair and impartial investigation” into the shooting.

“We are not anti-police, we respect police,” Sharpton said. “But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in our community who are wrong need to be dealt with.”

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing Brown’s family, alluded to the “three-fifths” clause in the Constitution for counting slaves (which actually was an anti-slavery clause) and demanded that Brown get “full justice, not three-fifths justice.”

Brown’s body was being laid to rest, but the controversy surrounding the Aug. 9 shooting was far from over. Prosecutors have not determined whether the Ferguson police officer, 28-year-old Darren Wilson, will face charges in Brown’s death.

The service began with energy, including songs from a church choir and Scripture readings. The line from Scripture: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” drew loud applause.

Several family members shared stories of Brown, telling how the 18-year-old had promised to make something of himself.

Michael “stated to the family that one day the world would know his name. He did not know he was offering up a divine prophecy,” Brown’s cousin, Eric Davis, told the crowd. “But we are here today remembering the name of Michael Brown.”

Davis encouraged people to express their anger at the polls.

“Every time change has come, it’s come through the youth and the young generation,” Davis said. “This generation is saying we have had enough of this senseless killing. We have had enough of this.”

Michael Brown’s step mother, Cal Brown, said Michael shared similar memories. “Mike-Mike,” as he was called, had promised to “shake the world.”

She said he had been dreaming of death and bloody sheets just days before he died.

Michael Brown Sr., had urged supporters not to protest Monday out of respect for his son. Sharpton also discouraged violent protest, saying anyone involved in such activity must do so in their own name, not Michael Brown’s name.

The request was a hard sell outside the church, where members of the New Black Panther Party and Panthers for Justice started brief “Black Power” chants, fists punching the air.

Bila Mohammad, of Panthers for Justice, said he wished Michael Brown’s family hadn’t discouraged protests. “This is the day,” he said. “The community needs to come together, in a non-violent way.”

He added: “There will be more protests. … In the words of Malcolm X, ‘When you tell your people to put their guns down, we’ll put ours down, too.”

Earlier, mourners began lining up under a blistering sun more than three hours before the funeral.

One half hour before the service, police informed visitors that the church had reached its 2,500-person capacity. They directed them to an adjacent auditorium that seats 1,000 people. Soon that room also was overflowing with mourners. A 300-seat annex also filled quickly.

A few hundred visitors unable to get into the service milled around outside cordially, allowing family members to enter and chatting with one another. One woman passed out small green and purple ribbons that people pinned to their shirts. But anger simmered under the surface.

Quincy Harts, 40, of St. Louis, was outside the church wearing a T-shirt with Brown’s picture and the words: “No Justice, No Peace.”

He said he’ll respect the family’s wishes of no protests — for now.

“Ain’t nobody too happy about this,” Harts said. “You’re going to see more protests until (Wilson) goes to jail.”

Angela Jones-Peaks, 43, of nearby Jennings, asked her supervisor for a few hours off Monday morning to attend the service. Having two sons of her own motivated her to attend, she said.

“It’s scary every time they leave home,” Jones-Peaks said. “I wanted to support this family, let them know we’re here for them.”

(Yamiche Alcindor, Rick Jervis and John Bacon write for USA Today.)

YS END ALCINDOR

12 Comments

  1. The black community leaders are sending grossly mixed signals. On one hand they are calling for a “fair and impartial investigation.” And yet, on the other hand the protests, diatribes, and general sense of community anger continues. Anger at what? At the fact that an unarmed black man was shot by a white police officer and that officer has not been arrested yet.
    I too hope that the investigation is fair and impartial. The black community leaders will have an opportunity to show how genuine they are if the investigation does not go the way they clearly want…a conviction of the officer. Stay tuned.

  2. Christopher Blackwell

    What to bet that the police internal affairs will state that the officer was justified in killing the black man. It is very rare when a bad cop ever gets punished. Now he might be moved to another jurisdiction like they did when he was involved with that other corrupt police force that the other town have to deactivate for any of the same complaints of racism and corruption.

    Not that it matters, but even as a white guy I worry more about the police than even the criminals. Criminals occasionally go to prison for their crimes, cops almost never do.

  3. Thank you, Doc Anthony. I just hate to see any tragedy capitalized upon and this is a gross example of just that, I believe. Am I saying the young man deserved to die and there should be no one upset by his death? No, of course not. What happened was terrible, for everyone involved. But the real tragedy, in my opinion, is the campaign being waged in his name that simultaneously calls for justice and tolerance while condemning the officer for defending himself to end a situation in which he felt he and others may be in danger and holding the perpetrator of the attack up as nothing more than a victim, playing on issues of race to incite more racism and violence.

    If only Brown had backed down and let it be ended peacefully. I hope everyone lets Brown’s family and friends mourn in peace and leaves them alone instead of trying to make them the figureheads for their own agendas.

  4. j says (in part) … “instead of trying to make them the figureheads for their own agendas.”

    First, I don’t usually post to these articles as there is still too much that has not been revealed, and I sense that there is more to come that is of significance, but it is possible that this has been withheld until after the Memorial Service and the family has had time to come into a period of recognition on what really went down.

    Now, what I share I share fully expecting Atheist Max to jump on and say: See I told you so!

    But I am going to share it anyway.

    Yesterday while watching our local news station, I watched a clip of Michael Brown’s Memorial Service at the Baptist Church. In this, Michael’s cousin (family friend?) stood at the microphone and said :

    “Michael was a big guy, but he was a kind, gentle soul, and before he left this Earth, the day that he was killed, he was out spreading the word of Jesus Christ.”

    I shared this with another and he asked: Before or after he robbed the store and threatened the store clerk?

    Peace and Love

  5. Sister Geraldine Marie, R.N.

    IF Mr. Brown attacked a police officer, there is still no reason to use a gun, since Brown was unarmed. Many male police officers are too aggressive and don’t like being talked back to, even respectfully. People who hire people to be policemen or women should have courage and respect for all as two of the highest qualities in being selected and to be able to give concrete examples of these to the selector.

    • Rev. Albert W. Kovacs - UCC

      Sister: Apparently the officer already had an altercation with Brown in the car, involving his gun. In that struggle, he was hit so hard in the face that it broke his eye socket – a vicious blow. In the events that followed, possibly fearing for his own skin and quite aware of the power of Brown, he probably did what was necessary to defend himself. . . . Speaking to our own small town police chief, when I met him in casual dress at the Post Office and he said he was going to shooting practice, I remarked how essential it was for him to survive in the event of a terrible situation, to do his job – and further to be able to go home to his family at the end of the day.

      • Sister Geraldine Marie, R.N.

        To Rev. Kovacs: The key word is “apparently”–that’s what I’m saying. We don’t know the facts. And shooting not once, but six times? And Brown unarmed? No, no matter the provocation, except in ACTUALLY trying to overpower someone, then the use of deadly force is justified. But Brown ran away.

        • He was shot four times in the arm and twice in the head. The last two shots killed him. Again, police officers are under instruction to shoot to kill, for a reason.

          We don’t know the facts.

          Sister Humbug, your commentary makes little sense unless you fancy you do know the facts.

  6. The killing of Michael Brown was tragic. Yet so much of the media and public reaction seems to be raging before the full story of what happened and what Michael Brown’s underlying issues were. But even more this funeral seems a profound drama and show by many civil rights leaders who are strangely silent about the daily murders and violence done by minorities upon fellow minorities and others of color different from theirs. I believe Michael Brown’s death should never have happened. But I also feel the endless mayhem of gang and cultural violence is just as wrong. Are not the lives of the many truly innocent as precious as Mr. Brown’s?

  7. I am sad to read some of these emails , from I would believe are christian. I live in Wisconsin now, but live in St Louis most of my life. What those blacks in Ferguson experience is what I experience when I live there. I was pulled over by police more than thirty times couple of those time I was saved by Christ Jesus. one nite two officer pulled me over while driving my car. One of the two officers wanted to shoot me for no reason and pretend I reached for his gun. The other officer told him to get a grip, and he told the other officer what the hell is wrong with you. If that officer was riding by himself that nite I would have died and there would have nothing by said or done about, just like all these blacks that are being killed now by them. That nite I said well if he going to kill me God will avenge my soul. That is what U feel is going to happen to most of all the racist officers on all of the different municipalities across America. I’m just turn sixty four on the 15th of this month. I only made this far because of the lord. It is really dangerous for a black young man in this country. Whites would have to live in black skin for a month, then you will know the truth. Brown was just murdered, which is my opinion.

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