Michael Brown Laid to Rest

Posted September 1, 2014

But Demands for Change in the U.S. Persist

Michael Brown Sr. in anguish as his son is lowered during burial.

Michael Brown Sr. in anguish as his son is lowered during burial.

Special to The Key from Barrington M. Salmon, The Washington Informant

Almost 5,000 mourners packed Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis two weeks after a white police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Impassioned speakers at the service tied Brown’s death to other black men and women, victims of extra-judicial killings sacrificed on the altar of racism and discrimination. They implored Ferguson’s black residents and other African Americans to channel their anger into political action.
“Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this,” said Brown’s cousin Eric Davis.
Mourners included Trayvon Martin’s parents, Martin Luther King III; his sister, the Rev. Bernice King; a relative of Emmett Till, the a 14-year-old beaten and murdered by white men for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955; filmmaker Spike Lee; and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Several White House officials also attended.
Brown’s uncle, the Rev. Charles Ewing, delivered the eulogy, saying his nephew’s blood is “crying from the ground. Crying for vengeance. Crying for justice.”
According to eyewitnesses, Brown, unarmed at the time of the confrontation, ran after a scuffle with Officer Darren Wilson, turned around after Wilson fired a shot and had his hands up and walked toward Wilson who fired at least six shots which hit Brown. Wilson has been in hiding since the August 9 incident but a friend and anonymous Ferguson Police Department sources claim Wilson shot Brown after he “bum-rushed” him.
The midday shooting triggered angry but peaceful protests and then nights of unrest that saw businesses looted and burned. Law enforcement’s response of firing and lobbing tear gas and smoke grenades, shooting rubber bullets and wooden projectiles at protestors and threatening, intimidating and then arresting people is behavior decried by civil libertarians , those in legal circles and others as illegal and unconstitutional.
As the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin did in 2012, Brown’s killing sparked spirited protests and marches around the country. Trayvon, also unarmed, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida.
Demonstrators in Ferguson are demanding Wilson’s arrest and the appointment of a special prosecutor. Authorities have done neither and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon refuses to replace State Attorney Bob McCullogh, who residents believe is too biased to conduct an honest investigation.
Blacks’ fear, frustration and anger around the country is palpable. “I’ve been all over the planet, I’ve seen people shot down in the streets. I’ve never considered myself to be a coward in any way or shape but I’m petrified right now,” said Nicole Lee, a human rights lawyer and immediate past president of TransAfrica, the oldest African-American foreign policy organization. “I’m petrified for my girls that their bodies and hearts will be stolen, destroyed by (this) system.”
“If you’re not scared, you’re crazy. You should be petrified. As I saw coverage (of the disturbances in Ferguson), I was shocked. I could not believe what was happening in this country … regardless of what we think about foreign affairs, it’s not just tanks on the streets or tear gas, it’s how municipalities think they can push us back.”
Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree said he’s distressed by the Brown killing and laments the continued murders of unarmed blacks by law enforcement.
“A young Black man who had no gun at all was still shot multiple times by a police officer. It reflects what I’ve seen happening in New Jersey and New York to California,” he said. “This officer should be arrested. I received hundreds of supportive comments from African Americans inside and outside the community of Ferguson. I also received criticism from a lot of whites who thought the police officer acted appropriately. The recourse is to diversify police forces. If the public saw people who looked like them, that would make a difference. We have to see police as friends not enemies.”
One indication of the racial chasm separating blacks and whites are the protests seeking justice for Brown and rallies for Wilson. Protestors represent people and colors across the spectrum, while Wilson’s supporters are white. Already, his supporters have raised more than $400,000 for Wilson’s legal defense fund and whites have offered unwavering support for the officer who’s on paid administrative leave.
“We really need to understand how to create the change we need when we have a certain sizeable cohort of people who aren’t moved with evidence shown to them,” said Avis Jones-DeWeever, president and CEO of Incite Unlimited, LLC., a local consulting firm. “I don’t have the answers but we have to think about what we can do about racism. We have to find out where’s that moveable middle so we can produce a fair and equitable society.”