After weeks of people joining together on the streets to mourn and protest the shooting death of Michael Brown, his supporters gathered in a more formal setting on Monday (August 25), at the funeral for the 18-year-old.
Held at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, the service brought thousands together to pay their respects to Brown, the unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9.
Brown’s parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden looked on as numerous civil rights leaders were in attendance, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, with the latter delivering the eulogy for Brown. Others at the service included Spike Lee, Martin Luther King III, radio personality Tom Joyner, and the families of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. In addition, a handful of congresspeople were among the congregation, as well as Broderick Johnson, White House Cabinet Secretary and chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.
Family members of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, and Jordan Davis have all joined the Mike Brown funeral.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 25, 2014
— New York Post (@nypost) August 25, 2014
“The policies of this country cannot go unchallenged,” Sharpton said during his eulogy, which mixed moments of anger and poignancy with those of laughter and calls to action. “We cannot have aggressive policing of low level crimes and can’t deal with the higher level.”
As part of his honoring of Brown, Sharpton also brought up the death of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold by police in New York City in July. “Strange that you can get all these guns into the ‘hood, but you run around chasing folks selling loosie cigarettes and walking in the middle of the street,” he lamented.
Even before Monday, unofficial memorials for Brown had been happening regularly. During the 2014 VMAs on Sunday night, Common called for a moment of silence to honor the teen.
“For the past two weeks, the eyes of the nation have been on Ferguson, Missouri,” he said, before presenting the award for Best Hip-Hop Video. “The people of Ferguson and St. Louis and communities across the country have used their voices to call for justice and change. To let everyone know that each and every one of our lives matters.”
“I want us all to take a moment of silence for Mike Brown, and for peace in this country and in the world.”
In the end, Sharpton seemed intent on using the tragedy as a teachable moment, one that would implore those who felt hurt and confusion following Brown’s death to act.
“Michael’s gone on to get his rest now,” he said. “We’re required, in his name, to change the country.”
“Justice gon’ come!” he exclaimed to a thunderous cheer.