Hundreds mourn slain Ferguson teenager
FERGUSON –– Hundreds of people attended the funeral for the black teenager killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
Lines of mourners entered the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in St Louis where today’s service was being held.
Michael Brown, 18, who was unarmed, was killed on August 9 after being stopped by a white police officer for walking in the middle of the street. His death sparked days of protests and violent clashes, but tensions appear to have eased in recent days.
Two poster-sized photos of Brown were placed inside the church near the casket, along with another photo of him as a small child.
Those in the church sang, clapped and danced to gospel music before the service started.
Brown’s family addressed mourners, describing Michael as a gentle soul. His cousin Eric Davis said his generation had stood up to what had happened in Ferguson.
“We have had enough. We have had enough of having our brothers and sisters killed in the streets,” he said. “Hear our voice. We have had enough of this senseless killing.”
Civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were among those in attendance. Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon did not attend. President Barack Obama sent three White House aides to represent him.
The mood outside the church was peaceful and sombre, said BBC correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan.
But there was still anger in Ferguson, which has a majority black population, after the shooting by white police officer Darren Wilson – who is currently suspended on full pay.
“If Darren Wilson is not charged, there will be an uprising,” one mourner said.
A grand jury panel of residents has begun hearing evidence in the case. The National Guard, which was deployed to deal with violent clashes in Ferguson last week, started to withdraw from the area on Saturday.
Yesterday, Michael Brown’s father made his plea for calm to a crowd gathered at Peace Fest 2014, a rally against police violence in St Louis.
“Tomorrow all I want is peace,” he said.
Rev. Al Sharpton also addressed the crowd, telling them the day of the funeral was not for “rage” but “about the legacy and memory of his [Michael Brown Sr’s] son”.
“We don’t want anything tomorrow to happen that might defile the name of Michael Brown,” the reverend added.
Michael Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden took the microphone to thank the crowd.
She said she had seen her son’s body at the morgue for the first time yesterday since the day of the shooting.
The family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a Florida neighbourhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder charges, was present at yesterday’s rally.
“We’re going to stand tall with you all,’’ Trayvon Martin’s father Tracy Martin said.