December 18, 2014
Michael Brown funeral marked with calls for peace, justice
Family and supporters of Michael Brown celebrated the life of the black teenager slain by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in a music-filled funeral service ringing with calls for peace and police reforms.
Brown's body lay in a black and gold casket at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, topped with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap he was wearing when he was killed on Aug. 9.
People jammed inside the modern red-brick church and gathered outside on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis for the celebration, a markedly different scene from the violent protests that rocked the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson after the police shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old Brown.
Brown's slaying has focused global attention on the state of race relations in the United States. Police and demonstrators in Ferguson clashed nightly for more than a week, with authorities coming under fire for mass arrests and the use of heavy-handed tactics and military gear.
The teenager's coffin was surrounded by photos of him as a child, graduating from school and smiling in his baseball cap.
Spirited gospel music by a choir and horn players filled the sanctuary, and mourners clapped their hands and danced in the aisles. Readings from the Bible were met with whoops and cheers.
"It was real spiritual," said Mike Montgomery, a black city employee who said he took the day off from work to attend.
"I usually hear more mourning at a funeral," said Montgomery, 38. "I think the family wanted a celebration. That's why they had the upbeat music. "
Printed in a program for the service were letters from his parents to their late son.
A letter by Michael Brown Sr. read: "I always told you I would never let nothing happen to you and that's what hurts so much, that I couldn't protect you."