Across America, in cities large and small, people came together to silently remember Michael Brown, a teen none knew in life but whose death Saturday sparked a wave of unrest in his Missouri hometown and raised questions about racial profiling.
Attendees wore red ribbons to honor Brown, 18, at rallies from Maine to Michigan, Florida to New York, Vermont and California. Many came to share their stories of alleged police brutality, and call for a new compact between officers and civilians.
Brown, who was black, was shot dead by a white police officer Saturday night in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. While local police have released few details about the circumstances of Brown’s death, his body lay in the street for hours. His death has drawn increasing national attention, first from civil unrest by furious residents, and then an increasingly heavy-handed police presence fueled by heavy social media attention.
Kenny Wiley, a youth minister who helped organize Denver’s vigil, said Brown’s death is the most recent demonstration of what he called the “systemic inequality” facing young black men in America. Wiley, who is black, said the system feels stacked against some people who pay the price with their lives.
“It wasn’t in our city, but this is our country, our world,” said Wiley, 26. “We want to stand up and say enough is enough, and to mourn those who have lost their lives.”
In Greenville, S.C., about 200 people, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, gathered on a plaza in front of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts to observe the moment of silence, to pray and to rally against police brutality.
“This struggle has depth and breadth and history,” Jackson, a native of Greenville, told the crowd. “And if the impact of his death wakes you up, he’s made a contribution.”
Jackson recalled as a child the lynching of a black mentally retarded man in 1947 in nearby Pickens County and called the shooting death of Michael Brown “a state execution.”