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Emotions run high at funeral of Michael Brown

Michael Browns coffin is lifted into the hearse. Picture: Reuters

Michael Browns coffin is lifted into the hearse. Picture: Reuters

  • by DANIEL BATES IN NEW YORK
 

THE uncle of the black teenager shot dead in Missouri by a white policeman said during the young man’s funeral yesterday that his blood was “crying from the ground”.

Pastor Charles Ewing said Michael Brown’s spirit wanted justice and that his death should end the senseless violence that was blighting America.

His emotional sermon came after the 18-year-old’s mother wept as she said her final goodbye to her son’s body, which lay in an open casket.

In the order of service, Lesley McSpadden wrote: “There are no words to ­express how much you mean to me … the day you were born God sent me a blessing – and that was you.”

Mr Brown’s father, Michael snr, wrote of his pain at not being able to protect his son, adding: “I will never let you die in my heart. You will always live forever.”

Mr Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson, 28, in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson on 9 August as he walked to his grandmother’s house. The killing ignited long-standing racial tensions in the city. During nine nights of riots and protests, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and the National Guard was deployed.

Yesterday 2,500 people packed into the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church for the service, with thousands more outside. Flanking the coffin were several pictures of Mr Brown, including one of him as a baby.

About 500 members of the teenager’s extended family were there, along with high-profile guests, including film director Spike Lee, Martin Luther King III and civil rights leaders the Rev Al Sharpton and the Rev Jesse Jackson. Three White House officials also attended, as did the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot dead by a neighbourhood watch co-ordinator in Florida in 2012.

The speakers remembered Mr Brown as “Big Mike” and told of his “big gentle smile” during a service that lasted more than two hours. They said the teenager had recently found God and he had told a relative that he was “saved” just before he died.

There was also anger at the way he had been killed, including from his uncle, who also ­referred to two mass shootings.

He said: “Michael’s blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice… There is a cry being made from the ground, not just for Michael Brown, but for the Trayvon Martins, for those children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for the Columbine massacre, there is a cry being made from the ground.”

Mr Brown’s cousin Eric Davis said: “We have had enough of seeing our brothers and sisters killed in the streets and [this generation] are speaking to those who are in charge right now, those who are in positions of power right now and saying, ‘Hear our voice’.”

Mr Sharpton said during the funeral: “Michael Brown does not want to be remembered for a riot, he wants to be remembered as the one who made us deal with how we police the United States.”

A grand jury in St Louis has begun hearing evidence on whether to prosecute Mr Wilson, but it could be October before it reports its decision.

 

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