ST. LOUIS, USA – Thousands are expected on Monday, August 25, to attend the funeral of the unarmed black teen shot dead by a white policeman in Missouri, two weeks after the killing sparked riots and revived debate on race and law enforcement in America.
Though calm had returned to the small city of Ferguson, after days of sometimes violent protests, the funeral for Michael Brown will be under heavy surveillance.
It is scheduled for 10 am (1500 GMT) in the nearby city of St. Louis, in the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist church, which can seat up to 5,000 people.
The 18-year-old Brown, shot dead August 9 in broad daylight by police officer Darren Wilson, is then to be buried in a private ceremony at the St. Peters cemetery.
Brown, just days shy of starting college, was walking down the street after leaving a convenience store where police say he stole a box of cigars, when he was shot by Wilson at least six times.
But accounts of the shooting differ widely, with police alleging Brown was trying to grab Wilson’s gun, but witnesses, including Brown’s friend who was walking with him, saying he was shot as he held his hands in the air in a clear sign of surrender.
Sunday, under a stifling heat, some 400 mostly black demonstrators gathered to remember Brown. Many wore shirts printed with the protest movement’s refrain: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Brown’s parents were there, as was the father of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black teen shot to death, by a neighborhood watchman in 2012 in Florida.
Brown’s father urged calm on Monday in respect for his son.
“Tomorrow, all I want is peace, while my son is being laid to rest. Can you please, please take a day of silence, so we can lay our son to rest,” he said.
At the funeral, a number of national civil rights leaders were expected, including Al Sharpton.
“We must turn this moment into a movement (…) towards solutions: how we deal with the whole aggressive policing of what is considered low-level crimes,” whether in Ferguson or Staten Island, New York, he told NBC on Sunday, August 24.
Staten Island was an allusion to the controversial death of Eric Garner, a black man and father of six who died on July 17 after he was tackled and held in a chokehold by police officers, in what authorities have determined was a homicide.
Garner’s death has prompted an emotional response in New York, where Sharpton led thousands in a protest on Saturday.
‘Justice will be served’
Brown’s death brought to the surface fierce anger from African Americans over their treatment by law enforcement, sparking riots unprecedented in recent years, which resulted in some 60 arrests.
A grand jury in St. Louis is charged with deciding whether to bring charges against the police officer, 28, who for now is on paid leave.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told CNN Sunday he was “confident that, with the dual investigations” – by local police and federal authorities – “that ultimately justice will be served here.”
During the protests – which at times turned into violent rioting – police used battle-grade hardware, including assault rifles, stun grenades and body armor, sparking criticism of an overly aggressive approach.
US President Barack Obama sent Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement officer and an African American, to Ferguson, where he walked the streets and tried to help heal the wounds of the violence-torn community.
The US president later ordered a review of federal programs that sell military hardware to local police, to determine whether they are appropriate, and whether there is enough training and oversight for the gear’s use. – Rappler.com