ST. LOUIS, Aug 26 – The black teenager whose shooting by a white officer ignited protests and revived the race debate in the United States was eulogised Monday as a victim of abusive policing whose untimely death demands justice.
During a cathartic funeral service that drew thousands of people, Michael Brown’s family bid farewell to the 18-year-old with gospel hymns and fiery orations that rocked a packed Baptist church near the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, where he was killed on August 9.
Civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton made a plea in his eulogy for some good to emerge from Brown’s death.
“All of us are required to respond to this. And all of us must solve this,” he said in an impassioned speech that drew shouts of agreement from mourners.
“This is not about you. This is about justice. This is about fairness. And America is going to have to come to terms when there’s something wrong.”
Activists, religious leaders, senior officials and politicians joined the Brown family and friends to fill the 5,000-seat Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. READ: FBI opens probe after police shooting of black US teen.
Brown’s closed bronze casket was flanked by large portraits of him as a young man and smaller ones showing him as a baby. A St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap was placed on the coffin next to a large bouquet of red roses.
As the funeral procession headed out of the church with the coffin, crowds of people who had been waiting for three hours or more in the searing heat jumped over a fence to march alongside Brown’s body as it was brought to its final resting place for a private burial.
Relatives and friends remembered Brown as a “gentle giant” who turned to religion in his last days and had premonitions of his own death.
Brown’s stepmother Cal Brown recalled a conversation she had with him during which he said the world would know his name.
“He just wanted so much,” she said. “God chose differently and I’m at peace about that. His death is not in vain. He’s not a lost soul.”
But Sharpton brought the service back to the fatal act that riveted the United States and reopened old wounds of racial discrimination and distrust, particularly between African Americans and the police.