ST. LOUIS — The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered an electrifying 50-minute address — part protest message, part sermon — to a congregation of several hundred Sunday morning at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., sat in the front row with several other family members.
“We lost the round, but the fight ain’t over,” Sharpton said, referring to the decision of a grand jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Brown on Aug. 9. “You won the first round, Mr. Prosecutor, but don’t cut your gloves off, because the fight is not over. Justice will come to Ferguson!”
God works in mysterious ways, Sharpton said. The activist, preacher and television commentator said he found bits of evidence in the grand jury transcript that might help the cause of those who think the failure to indict was a mistake. For example, according to Sharpton, the record showed that Wilson “prejudged” Brown by characterizing his neighborhood as an unsavory area. And it showed Wilson wasn’t looking for the suspect who robbed cigarillos from a liquor store.
“All you’ve got to do is read the transcript,” Sharpton said. “Better yet, let a federal grand jury read the transcript.”
Referring to the family members, Sharpton said: “You can’t heal [while] leaving the injured out of the process. The afflicted is the family that remains with open wounds.”
He discounted Wilson’s resignation from the police force Saturday: “It was not about Darren Wilson’s job. It was about Michael Brown’s justice.”
“We are not anti-police,” Sharpton said. “If our children are wrong, arrest them. Don’t empty your gun and act like you had no other way.”
He urged the congregation to join peaceful protests if they haven’t already, and he chided those who burned and looted in Ferguson and neighboring communities Monday night after the grand jury announcement. “Don’t confuse them with the young folk who are standing up and marching, and the old folk,” Sharpton said. “They are the true patriots in this country, because they are asking for the system to correct itself.”
He continued: “God is going to use Michael to lead this nation to deal with police accountability. . . . Michael, they are going to know your name because you’re going to change the music of how policing is done in this country.”
Turning to a more traditional — though no less fiery — Sunday morning sermon, Sharpton took as his text one line from Amos 6: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.”
He challenged even the most successful and prosperous African Americans in this church and around the country to join the protest movement in any way they can. Those strivers who have made it must not remain oblivious and at ease in their success, he said.
“Ferguson is to this battle what . . . Selma was to the voting battle,” he said. “Every generation must face its battle, and it’s not going to be easy.”
In conclusion, Sharpton made a promise to the people of Ferguson and greater St. Louis: They’ll be seeing a lot of him. “Until justice shows up,” he said, “I intend to hang around.”