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Thousands Attend Michael Brown Funeral

By Kurtis Lee, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, and Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times

FERGUSON, Mo. — Relatives of Michael Brown urged mourners Monday to turn their anger into a catalyst for change as thousands attended the funeral for Brown, an unarmed black man whose death at the hands of a white police officer has focused attention on what protesters say is racial profiling by law enforcement.

“Michael was a big guy, but he was a kind, gentle soul,” said one of several family members who spoke to those gathered inside the packed Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.
“I love you Mike. That’s all I’ve got to say,” Bernard Ewing, another relative, said as he choked back tears.

The casket containing the body of Brown sat at the front of the church as ushers guided mourners to their seats. Large photographs of Brown flanked the black-and-gold casket. A huge bouquet of red roses and a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap sat atop it.

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, wearing a cardinal red dress, stood for several minutes at the casket before going to her seat. A single tear ran down her face, and she shook her head back and forth as if in disbelief, oblivious to the crush of people filing into the service.

They included the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Al Sharpton; filmmaker Spike Lee; actor Wesley Snipes; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

But it was the regular citizens who formed the bulk of the mourners. Many did not know Brown, who was 18, or his family personally but spoke of them and wept as if they were family.

“This is just so, so heartbreaking,” said Monica Jackson, one of the mourners. “They shouldn’t be burying this boy. He should be going to college. Not to a cemetery.”

A line of several hundred people stretched outside the church hours before the doors opened — women in church hats, men in suits and ties, occasionally singing “We Shall Overcome” as they waited during the sweltering, muggy morning.

“We love you!” members of the crowd shouted as McSpadden emerged from a limousine and entered the church.

Greg Davis, 57, of Ferguson, was among the first in line at the church.

Davis said he knows Brown’s great-uncle, who was to deliver the eulogy, and that he had come to support the Brown family and to draw attention to police brutality and racial profiling — the problems that protesters have said led Officer Darren Wilson to shoot Brown.

“Change starts with us as a community,” Davis said, gesturing to police nearby as he stood outside the church about 7 a.m. “Justice for me is to stop profiling us. I would love to see them walk the beat, get to know the residents. Right now, it’s hard for me to call them.”

Davis wore a pin with Brown’s picture that read simply: “Justice.” Other mourners wore brown T-shirts printed with the refrain that has become the rallying call for protesters: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Witnesses have said Brown had his hands up and was trying to surrender when Wilson shot him on Aug. 9. Police have said Brown attacked Wilson and that the officer fired in self-defense. A grand jury began hearing evidence in the case Aug. 20.

Davis said he had been thinking a lot about the video, widely shown on TV and social media, of Brown’s body lying in the middle of the street for hours after the shooting. The image has angered some protesters who said it smacked of disrespect for Brown.

“That’s something I can forgive,” Davis said. “Some people can’t.”

Indeed, marches have continued nightly on Ferguson’s West Florissant Avenue, near the shooting scene, since Brown’s death. Lately they have been peaceful, with no signs of the looting or tear-gas lobbed by heavily armed police — images that stunned the city and the nation in the days immediately following Brown’s killing.

But marchers have said they will not stop their protests and hope that Brown’s death serves as a catalyst for change in a community that they say has long needed it.

Eric Davis, a member of the extended Brown family, said that at least Monday should remain peaceful in honor of Brown.

“Today is for peace. Peace and quiet,” Davis told mourners inside the church. “We don’t say goodbye,” he said of Brown. “We say good journey, until we meet again.”

AFP Photo/Richard Perry

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Ferguson Protests Subdued And Smaller As National Guard Pulls Out

By Kurtis Lee, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times

FERGUSON, Mo. — As Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to begin withdrawing from this St. Louis suburb Thursday, the persistent protests over the police killing of Michael Brown appeared smaller and much more subdued for the second night in a row.

About 75 demonstrators marched along West Florissant Avenue, at times posing for TV cameras and journalists. For a while, they were joined by State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of the police response, and by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

“We’ll look forward to another nice and calm night of protests,” Johnson said.

McCaskill joined the demonstrators for about half an hour. Asked whether the governor should remove St. Louis County Prosecuting Atty. Robert McCulloch from the case, as some have urged, she did not answer directly.

“He certainly has the power,” said McCaskill, a former prosecutor herself. “I understand there’s a perception out there that he (McCulloch) will not be fair. The governor has the power to remove him, and he should make a clear decision.”

Nixon issued a somewhat ambiguous statement on the subject this week, but told MSNBC Thursday night that he would not remove McCulloch and appoint a special prosecutor.

Brown’s Aug. 9 shooting by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson touched off nearly two weeks of clashes in this racially polarized St. Louis suburb. Wilson is white, and Brown was black.

The Guard was deployed in Ferguson on Monday, but its role was low-key, protecting the police command center and monitoring the protests. By Wednesday night, the number of demonstrators had dwindled and the intersection of Ferguson and West Florissant avenues, epicenter of the unrest, had calmed.

Nixon said in a statement that the situation had “greatly improved, with fewer incidents of outside instigators interfering with peaceful protesters, and fewer acts of violence.”

Also Thursday, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. indicated that the Justice Department may broaden its review of Brown’s death to investigate other allegations of police abuses in Ferguson.

“We have been working, I think, very diligently out there,” said Holder, who spent Wednesday in Ferguson. “I got a briefing from the FBI agents and the prosecutors who are involved in this case, and I think significant progress has been made.”

Asked if the Justice Department will broaden the Brown investigation to conduct a more thorough review of police practices in Ferguson, Holder said the department had “a number of tools” it can use in police misconduct cases.

“I’ll just say at this point that we are keeping all of our options open,” he said.

Other potential abuse cases in Ferguson include a September 2011 incident in which a mentally disturbed man died after being tased by officers, and another case in 2009, when a man was allegedly beaten by four officers, then charged with damaging government property because he bled on their uniforms.

Wilson had stopped Brown and a friend because they were walking down the middle of the street, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has said. Police say Brown pushed Wilson back into his patrol car as he tried to get out of it, they struggled, and Wilson’s gun went off inside the car. Then Brown ran, witnesses say, and Wilson got out and opened fire. Wilson reportedly has said Brown rushed at him. Jackson has said that Wilson’s face was swollen from injuries suffered during the altercation with Brown.

Brown’s parents told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday that they had no confidence in any investigation into their son’s death until they met with Holder on Wednesday.

“He made me feel like one day … (investigative agencies) will regain my trust,” said Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden.

Michael Brown Sr. said that if the family is to find justice, Wilson must go to jail.

“He has his life,” Brown said. “Our son is gone.”

Since Holder took office in 2009, the Justice Department has given high priority to cases alleging abuse against large police departments around the nation, with several departments placed under federal oversight.

Federal prosecutors have won 16 settlements or federal court orders and have an additional 33 cases underway.

Last month, the federal government placed a monitor over the Newark, N.J., Police Department, which has faced brutality and discrimination complaints.

Also Thursday, the St. Louis County Police Department released statistics on arrests the agency made from 11:30 p.m. Aug. 10 through 12:30 a.m. Thursday. In all, the department arrested 204 people, the vast majority from the greater St. Louis area. Nine live in Ferguson, and 34 are from out of state. The data did not include arrests by the Ferguson Police Department.

Back on the streets Thursday night, the atmosphere remained calm.

“It’s peaceful, and that’s one thing to be happy about,” said Caitlin Fair, a graduate student from New Jersey, who came to Missouri on Monday to join the protests. “Justice still must be served.”

Another protester, Mikael Ross of neighboring Jennings, Mo., said the demonstrations were not over.

“We’ll keep showing up, even if it’s just me,” Ross said.

Lee and Hennessy-Fiske reported from Ferguson, Serrano from Washington. Times staff writer James Queally in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

AFP Photo/Joshua Lott

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