Michael Brown Funeral Filled With Cries For Justice

Michael Brown Funeral Filled With Cries For Justice

ST. LOUIS -- A massive crowd gathered at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church on this brilliantly sunny day to grieve an 18-year-old they called "Mike Mike," whose death at the hands of a police officer has sparked huge protests in the small city of Ferguson over the past two weeks.

Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was shot by Police Officer Darren Wilson, 28, on Aug. 9. Brown's death and the protests that followed have put a spotlight on police violence, militarization of local law enforcement and racial profiling. The calls for justice for Brown have been folded into a broader movement in the greater Saint Louis area -- and around the country -- for improved relationships between police and the communities they are supposed to protect.

Inside the church on Monday, the pulpit was flanked by floral displays and photographs of Brown. Nearly all of the mourners at the service were African-American, and at least 600 members of Brown's extended family were reportedly in attendance. So too were Rev. Al Sharpton, filmmaker Spike Lee, Rev. Jesse Jackson, officials from the White House and a plethora of local politicians. The sanctuary was full, and people -- both mourners and media -- spilled into overflow rooms.

Just after 11:30 a.m., after remembrances by several family members and a reading of Psalms 27 ("The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear?") -- Charles Ewing, Brown's great uncle and a pastor in nearby Jennings, took the pulpit.

"We called him the gentle giant. We called him Big Mike. We called him Mike Mike," Ewing said. "Michael Brown's blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice."

Ewing referenced Trayvon Martin, the shooting victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and Columbine High School, and the victims of "black-on-black crime."

"There is a cry being made from the ground!" he said.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is working on behalf of Brown's family, assured the crowd he'd keep fighting for justice.

"We will not accept three-fifths justice," said Crump to loud applause, referencing the Three-Fifths Compromise. "We will demand equal justice for Mike Brown Jr."

During the service, Sharpton called for a national movement to reform policing, noting incredulously that the country has money to spend on militarized police vehicles but not on more educating funding. His remarks were warmly greeted by applause and shouts of "say it!" from the mourners.

"America, it's time to deal with policing!" Sharpton exclaimed. "We are not the haters, we are the healers."

Debra Lusain -- a nurse who attended the service "in memory of Michael Brown" and others, like Martin -- said when her brothers were growing up, they were "constantly targeted" by the police.

Lusain said she's not against police, and even has family members who are police officers, but that "I think it's a little excessive, they're supposed to be professional."

Pastor Timothy Haynes Sr. of the Outta Love Christian Baptist Church echoed that sentiment, telling HuffPost he came to the funeral to "show my support for what's needed in the community."

Haynes said "the police force ought to be held to those same standards" ordinary citizens are expected to follow.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who has been criticized for refusing to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, had planned to attend the funeral, but released a statement on Monday morning saying he would not, "out of respect for the family, who deserve time to focus on remembering Michael and grieving their loss."

Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., had asked protesters to pause demonstrations Monday, requesting instead a "day of silence" as his family laid the teenager to rest. Sharpton, who has been assisting Brown's family, also requested a day of peace.

Outside the church on Monday, a few people shouted "hands up, don't shoot!" and raised their arms, in echo of what one witness claims Brown said before he was shot. Others quickly asked for their silence, in honor of the family's wishes.

Matt Sledge reported from St. Louis. Ryan J. Reilly and Paige Lavender reported from Washington, D.C.

This post has been updated with additional comments from funeral attendees.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community