Hundreds converged on Ferguson on Saturday to march for Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a white police officer three weeks ago to the day. His death stoked national discourse about police tactics and race, which the rally’s organizers pledged to continue.
Led by Brown’s parents and other relatives, Saturday’s throng peacefully made their way down Canfield Drive in the St. Louis suburb to a makeshift memorial that marked the spot where Brown was shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
“We know that his life is not going to be in vain,” the Rev. Spencer Booker of St. Louis’ St. Paul A.M.E. Church said into a megaphone, standing in the middle of the street amid candles, placards, stuffed animals and now-wilted flowers. “We know you’re going to even the score, God. We know you’re going to make the wrong right.”
Brown’s parents — mother Lesley McSpadden and father Michael Brown Sr. — encircled the memorial with other family members during prayers, including one by a Muslim clergy member.
Hours later, hundreds of protesters again gathered in front of the suburban police department and fire station, blocking the road. Fiery speeches by way of speakers mounted to a car gave way to another march, with chants of, “If we can’t have it, we’re shutting it down.” Some lobbed angry insults at Ferguson officers and state police who stood guard at a taped-off section of the city parking lot.
Wilson, a six-year police veteran, has not been charged. A St. Louis County grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and federal investigators are sorting out whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.
There was a muted police presence Saturday during the march, which began on a West Florissant Avenue stretch that became the nexus of nightly protests — some contentious and violent — and looting in the days after Brown’s death. Many of the businesses’ windows remain boarded up, though most have reopened. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, whom Missouri’s governor put in charge of security in Ferguson, was there, at times posing with rally attendees for selfies.
Saturday morning’s gathering included tailgaters and people hawking T-shirts memorializing Brown or featuring slogan, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” — a phrase that reflects what witnesses have said Brown did in surrender before being shot. Police have said the shooting happened after a struggle between Brown and Wilson in Wilson’s patrol vehicle, though authorities have said little else, citing the investigations.
“We’re just three weeks into this, and this is only the beginning of this movement,” said Jerryl Christmas, a St. Louis attorney who helped lead Saturday’s march and others in the past. He’s intent on keeping Brown and the resulting turmoil and questions “in the forefront of America.”
“We want the president to come here. He remarked that he didn’t have a strategy for ISIS and Syria, but we need a strategy for urban America,” Christmas said. “The tragedy is this could have happened anywhere.”