Thousands gather for Michael Brown’s funeral in St Louis

Civil rights campaigner uses eulogy for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to urge reforms

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 9:03pm

Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager whose death at the hands of a white police officer set off days of sometimes violent protest in Ferguson, in the US state of Missouri, has been buried after a funeral infused with anger, hope and demands for justice.

Several thousand people attended the rousing service of gospel music, eulogies and passionate speeches on Monday at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist church in neighbouring St Louis. Mourners lined up in close to 38 degrees Celsius heat, and many had to be directed to an overflow annex.

Brown's father, also called Michael, arrived wearing a tie with a portrait of his 18-year-old son, shot at least six times on August 9 and felled by a bullet to the head.

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, entered the church along an honour guard by members of the Nation of Islam and stood before a large photograph of her son. She rocked back and forth during parts of the funeral as relatives spoke of a "big guy" who was a "kind and gentle soul".

Civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton gave an impassioned eulogy, lamenting that Brown's body was left in the street for four hours. "When I saw Michael laying there, I thought about how many of us were thought of as nothing. To have that boy lying there like nobody cared about him, like he didn't have any loved ones," he said.

The name of the officer who is under investigation for shooting the teenager, Darren Wilson, was not spoken but it hung over the funeral amid repeated calls for justice and reform of policing.

Sharpton invoked other victims of excessive use of force by the police, including Marlene Pinnock, a woman beaten by a highway patrol officer in California, and Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by a New York officer attempting to arrest him for selling cigarettes.

"America, it's time to deal with policing. We are not the haters, we're the healers," he said. "We are not going to have a fit. We got to have a movement."

Sharpton was also critical of rioters in the Missouri town who used Brown's death as an excuse for violence, saying of the teenager's parents: "They had to break their mourning to ask folks to stop looting and rioting ... Can you imagine? They have to stop mourning to get you to control your anger."

Brown's uncle, the Reverend Charles Ewing, gave an impassioned address. "Michael Brown's blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice," he said.

Ewing said the cry was not just for Brown but for others also killed in similar circumstances, such as Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot dead by George Zimmerman in Florida.

Martin's father, Tracy, attended the funeral along with Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, an unarmed teenager who was shot in the back while lying face down on the ground by a white transit police officer in Oakland, California in 2009.

Ron Davis, whose 17-year-old son Jordan was shot dead by a white man in a dispute over loud music at a petrol station, also attended. He met Brown's father, Martin and Johnson. "We're the circle of fathers, with Tracy and Oscar Grant's uncle," he said. "We met Mike Brown privately. We had the chance to talk to him and try to soothe him and let him know that the circle of fathers is with him and he's joining us. We help these fathers that are going through these tragedies."