Michael Brown Sr. (in hat) attends the funeral for his son
Michael Brown at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church
in St. Louis, Missouri. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Family and supporters have celebrated the life of Michael
Brown, a black teenager slain by police in Ferguson, Missouri,
with a music-filled funeral service and calls to remember him
with peace and political change.
Brown's body lay at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist
Church in a black and gold casket, topped with the St. Louis
Cardinals baseball cap he was wearing when he was killed on
August 9 in nearby Ferguson by a white police officer.
Thousands of people jammed inside the modern red-brick church
and gathered outside on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St.
Louis for the service, a markedly different scene from the
violent protests that rocked the St. Louis suburb after the
shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old.
Brown's slaying has focused attention on racial tensions and
relations in the United States, and the protests have evoked
criticism of the predominantly white local police force using
military gear and heavy-handed tactics and racially profiling
blacks for arrest.
The teenager's coffin was surrounded by photos of him as a
child, graduating from school and smiling in his Cardinals
Spiritual music by a gospel choir and horn players filled the
sanctuary, and mourners clapped their hands and danced in the
aisles. Readings from the Bible were met with whoops and
Printed in a program for the service were letters from his
parents to their late son.
A letter by Michael Brown Sr. read: "I always told you I
would never let nothing happen to you and that's what hurts
so much, that I couldn't protect you."
CALL FOR JUSTICE
A grand jury has begun hearing evidence in the shooting and
the U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.
Eulogizing Brown, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton
called for a fair and impartial investigation into the
shooting an end to police brutality.
"Michael Brown does not want to be remembered for riots,"
Sharpton said. "He wants to be remembered as the one that
made America deal with how we're going to police in the
But he called on the black community to end the kind of
street violence and looting that has put Ferguson in a
"We have to be outraged for our disrespect for each other,"
he said. "Some of us act like the definition of blackness is
how low you can go.
"Blackness has never been about being a gangster or a thug.
Blackness was no matter how low we was pushed down, we rose
up anyhow," he said.
Family and friends rose to speak as well, recalling Brown's
nicknames of "Gentle Giant," and "Big Mike."
Pastor Charles Ewing, who is Brown's uncle, recalled Brown
once telling him: "One day the whole world will know my
"Michael Brown's blood is crying from the ground, crying for
vengeance, crying for justice," Ewing said.
Outside, under the hot midday sun, the police presence was
heavy but relaxed. Authorities had braced for a possible
flare-up, although clashes between protesters and police have
waned significantly in recent days.
The crowd repeated the now-familiar "hands up, don't shoot,"
which protesters have chanted in the streets of Ferguson.
In differing accounts of Brown's shooting, police have said
he struggled with the officer who shot and killed him. But
some witnesses say Brown held up his hands and was
surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and
Among those outside the church was Travis Jackson, a black,
25-year-old retail store employee who said he took the day
off from work to pay his respects.
"I had to be here. After all the emotions and pain of the
past two weeks, this is an important moment for this
community," he said.
"Today I am focused on peace for Michael Brown. Tomorrow I
can think about justice," he added.
Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson was on hand for the
funeral, and the White House said it was sending three
presidential aides to attend the service.