ST. LOUIS — Mourners are expected to gather at a St. Louis church Monday morning for the funeral services for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., this month.
The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to speak, according to the National Action Network, and three White House officials are expected to be in attendance. The services are set for 10 a.m. Central time at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, which can seat more than 4,000 people.
“I think that what we can say is that we must turn this moment into a movement to really deal with the underlying issues of police accountability and what is and is not allowable by police, and what citizens ought to be moving toward,” Sharpton said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think that we need to deal with how we move toward solutions, how we deal with the whole aggressive policing of what is considered low-level crimes.”
The Rev. Charles Ewing, a relative of Brown’s, is also scheduled to speak at the services, which are reportedly being paid for by Alpha Phi Alpha, a black fraternity. The teenager’s father, Michael Brown Sr., talked Sunday with a St. Louis radio station and asked for protests in the area to stop Monday.
“I would like for no protesting going on,” Brown said during the interview, according to a BuzzFeed report. “We just want a moment of silence that whole day, just out of respect for our son.”
Police officer Darren Wilson shot the younger Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. Crowds have gathered in the area in the days that have followed, and their protests have drawn a heavy police response.
Brown was unarmed. He was hit multiple times, according to autopsy reports. Many details of the shooting remain unclear, however; police have said there was apparently a struggle over the officer’s gun, while a friend of Brown’s has told authorities that Wilson was the instigator.
Brown’s body lay on Canfield Drive for hours afterward, and Wilson, 28, has not been seen in public since his name was released. The case went to a grand jury last week, but deliberations are not expected to conclude until the fall.
“We know this is of interest to a lot of people around the country,” Edward Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, said last week. “We’re going to do this fairly and also attempt to do it in a timely manner.”
Over the weekend, supporters of Wilson gathered at a St. Louis tavern. As the pro-Wilson rally and fundraiser entered its second day Sunday, dozens of them lined both sides of the street in front of Barney’s Sport Pub, holding handmade signs in support of the officer.
Three hours into the rally, there was no sign of counter-demonstrators, who had a tense standoff Saturday with Wilson backers.
Motorists either honked in support or yelled from their windows voicing disapproval.
“Racists!” one woman shouted as she drove by.
“You should be ashamed of yourself!” yelled a man as he sped along.
The man’s comment was directed at Robin Clearmountain, an African American woman who 10 years ago worked as director of multicultural affairs for the Florissant Police Department.
Clearmountain paced up and down the street, weaving through traffic with a sign that said “Support Officer Darren Wilson” and holding a bag out to motorists, asking them to give money to help the officer.
“What gets me is people will honk in support, but they won’t give a buck,” she said. “His lawyers are going to cost a fortune.”
Clearmountain was one of the few supporters at the rally who was black. She said some people were angry with her for supporting Wilson, but she said she doesn’t see color in the matter: “I don’t care if you are red, yellow or green. I am here because I support law enforcement and there are always two sides.”
The event was organized on Facebook by a group called Support Darren Wilson, which took cash donations for hot dogs, chips and sodas, and sold nearly 1,000 T-shirts for $20 each that read: “Officer Darren Wilson. I Stand By You. 8-9-14.”
The group says it has raised about $400,000 through contributions, T-shirt sales and the rally. It is telling people who want to contribute to contact the Shield of Hope charity, a 501(c)3, which has the same address as the police union in St. Louis. The money will go toward Wilson’s legal defense.
Most of the people in attendance Sunday hung out inside the dimly lit bar next to neon Coors and Budweiser signs, out of the nearly 100-degree heat.
Ed Chambers, who lives in south St. Louis, does not know Wilson but wanted to be there, he said, because he thinks the officer has been wrongly and prematurely condemned.
“There are people who want to kill him,” Chambers said. “My family and I are out here, including my daughter on her 21st birthday, because we think he needs to know there are people out here for him.”
Late Sunday evening, Travion Walker, 13, made his way through a crowd that had gathered on Canfield Drive. He had been at football practice earlier; he carried his helmet and was still in gear. He said it was the third time he had been interviewed since the shooting.
“Off the chain,” Walker said, when asked about how the past few days have been. “Police throwing tear gas. Shooting rubber bullets. . . . You can barely walk out your door without getting hit with tear gas.”
Walker said he knew Brown, and remembered him as a funny guy who sometimes told knock-knock jokes, and told Walker he could be a great athlete someday.
“He was a big guy,” Walker said. “He knew how to play basketball. I liked his socks, his shoes. He [was] funny. He used to say funny jokes. He had everyone laughing.”
The protests in Ferguson on Sunday night had turned to a quiet vigil by the memorial the community had built near the shooting site.
Dozens of people gathered, eating free hotdogs and drinking free water out of a food truck brought in by the Rev. John Hollis, who once lived on the street where Brown died.
Every few minutes there would be a flash as people posed in the night by the memorial where more than 100 stuffed animals and pictures of Brown were piled high.
Many were people like Hollis, who has been out every night protesting the shooting. Just a few came for the first time.
Washington University student Chris Wilson was one of them. His father had just dropped him off earlier in the day for his sophomore year, and soon the two were 15 miles away from campus in Ferguson, hoping it might be a place where change can begin to happen.
“It can happen to any of us,” Wilson said. “If a cop sees a young black man, he sees a criminal, he sees a thug first. I was with a group of black friends and police came up to us and were a little hostile until someone showed their student ID. It shouldn’t be like that. They shouldn’t see a criminal first.”
Along West Florissant Avenue, where hundreds of protesters marched and where tear gas choked them a week earlier, people gathered quietly in groups of two and three to chat. On one table were T-shirts for sale that said, “I Survived the Ferguson Riots.”