News / USA

Slain Missouri Teen's Funeral Draws Thousands

Lesley McSpadden reacts at the casket of her son Michael Brown during the funeral services at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri, Aug. 25, 2014.
Lesley McSpadden reacts at the casket of her son Michael Brown during the funeral services at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri, Aug. 25, 2014.
VOA News

Mourners sang, clapped and danced on Monday at funeral services for Michael Brown, remembering the slain black teenager with words of goodwill and joy rather than the violence and outrage that followed his killing by a white police officer.

"The mood is festive inside the church as funeral goers celebrate the life of Michael Brown," a VOA reporter at the scene said. "Brown's parents said they feel blessed by the support of th ecommunity who have turned out at their son's funeral. [There were] no demonstrations and calm prevails in Ferguson. "

Unarmed Brown, 18, was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson in a confrontation on August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Brown's body lay at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in a black and gold casket, topped with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap he was wearing when he was killed on Aug. 9.

Monday's service was held under heavy police surveillance to guard against renewed violence. Ferguson has been mostly calm in recent days following nearly two weeks of unrest.



Pastor Charles Ewing, Brown's uncle, delivered the eulogy during the service.

"There is a cry being made from the ground - not just for Michael Brown but for the Trayvon Martins, for those children in Sandy Hook elementary school, for the Columbine massacre, for the black on black crime, there is a cry being made, there is a cry being made from the ground," he said.

A number of national civil rights leaders, politicians and celebrities attended the service at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.

Reverend Al Sharpton, who delivered remarks, said Michael Brown legacy should not be about rioting, but that he should be remembered as the one who made America face how policing is conducted in the United States.

"This is about justice. This is about fairness," Sharpton told the audience. "And America is going to have to come to terms, when there's something wrong that we have money to give military equipment to police forces, but we don't have money for training, and money for public education and money to train our children."

Sharpton said the movement for fair policing cannot be shortsighted.

"We can't have a fit, we've got to have a movement," he said. "A fit you get mad and run out for a couple of nights. A movement means we've got to be here for the long haul. And turn our chance into change, our demonstration into legislation. We have got to stay on this, so we can stop this."

In addition to Sharpton, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson was also on hand for the funeral.

Three White House officials were also in attendance, including Broderick Johnson, head of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, and Marlon Marshall and Heather Foster from the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Appeal for calm

Before the funeral, Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., appealed for calm - asking for protests to stop during the service.

"All I want is peace while my son is laid to rest. Please, please. I'd like a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please. That's all I ask. And, thank you," Brown said.

  • A makeshift memorial was left near the site where unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown was recently shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. (Gesell Tobias, VOA)
  • A sign in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown, Aug. 24, 2014. (Gesell Tobias/VOA)
  • An outpouring of tributes are seen at the site that teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 24, 2014. (Gesell Tobias, VOA)
  • An tribute in honor of teenager Michael Brown who was shot and killed by a police officer, Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 24, 2014. (Gesell Tobias, VOA)
  • A  tribute of flowers and signs are seen at the site that teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 24, 2014. (Gesell Tobias, VOA)
  • A lawn sign shows support for the town of Ferguson, Missouri after teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 24, 2014. (Gesell Tobias, VOA)
  • A woman holds up a tee shirt referring to the shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, Aug, 24, 2014. (Gesell Tobias, VOA)

Despite a heavy police presence, many demonstrators who have kept steady vigils in Ferguson, where the August 9 incident occurred, honored that request.

Brown, 18, was just days from starting college when he was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson.

Accounts of the incident differ.  Police say Brown was the aggressor during a struggle with Wilson, but witnesses say the shooting was unprovoked and that Brown was trying to surrender. 

No goodbyes

Before the funeral, as hundreds of people filed into the modern red-brick church on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis, Brown's coffin was surrounded by photos of him as a child, graduating from school and smiling in his Cardinals cap.

"There are no goodbyes for us, wherever you are you will always be in our hearts," read a sign accompanying one of the photos.

Gospel music filled the sanctuary as hundreds of people stood inside the church, many dancing, singing and clapping.

Outside, gatherers sang the civil rights hymn "We Shall Overcome," in a scene markedly different from the violent protests that rocked the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson after Brown was shot to death on Aug. 9.

Among the hundreds of people waiting outside the church was Travis Jackson, a black, 25-year-old retail store employee who said he took the day off from work to pay his respects.

"I had to be here. After all the emotions and pain of the past two weeks, this is an important moment for this community," he said. "Today I am focused on peace for Michael Brown. Tomorrow I can think about justice," he added.

Protests, arrests

More than 150 people have been arrested in Ferguson since the protests began - most of them for failing to disperse at the request of police.

Many have complained that the police response to the protests has been heavy-handed, while the shooting itself has raised allegations of institutionalized racism and excessive use of force.

The incident has highlighted the racial divide in the mostly black town of Ferguson, where almost all police and local politicians are white. 

 A grand jury began hearing evidence on Wednesday, a process  the county prosecutor said could take until mid-October. 

Related video report by Chris Simkins:

Slain Missouri Teen's Funeral Draws Thousandsi
Chris Simkins
August 26, 2014 5:53 PM
Thousands of people from across the country gathered Monday in the midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri to say goodbye to the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer during a street confrontation in nearby Ferguson. Differing eyewitnesses accounts touched off days of violent protests, which resulted in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from St. Louis.

VOA's Chris Simkins contributed to this report from Ferguson, Missouri, some information for this report provided by Reuters.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Robert William from: California
August 25, 2014 5:15 PM
The whole indecent incident in Ferguson is about a lot more than racial hatred. It is about the concept of a free society as opposed to an oppressive police state.

We cannot allow a corrupt "justice" system to function as the enforcement arm of an oligarchy that oppresses the people of the United States.

The use of feeble excuses, obviously contrived to explain away hate crimes by the police and abuses by the judiciary must end. By whatever means it shall take.

A good start would be the surrender of all military grade weapons by civil servants, such as police. Also, one of the most meaningful weapons for a law abiding citizenry to use is the ballot box. Do not vote in favor of funding for abusive police agencies, do not return crooked judges, police chiefs etc. to office. Another weapon is jury duty. Don't play the games of a corrupt justice system. Except in severe cases, don't send people to prison on the say-so of a cop. They lie. They are taught to lie and they become good at it.

Demand accountability and citizen review of police actions at all levels.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs