FERGUSON, Missouri – Hundreds of people gathered Sunday morning at the memorial of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen who was shot dead in the middle of the street by a white police officer exactly one year ago.
Teddy bears and candles now mark the memorial on Canfield Drive where the community’s outrage to Brown’s death planted the seeds of protests that would grow into a national movement decrying police violence.
Flanked by other families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police, Michael Brown Sr. led the crowd to pause in silence at 11:55 central – the exact time the unarmed teen was shot and killed. He stood in silence for four and a half minutes, representing each hour his son’s body was left in the street.
“Just wanted to give all my love to my family, friends, my people, my new friends, my my world,” he said.
Elenore Humphrey, a student in St. Louis, described the gathering as a powerful and solemn moment, the air still thick with raw emotion.
“It’s loss. It’s remorse. But it’s also anger. All of the emotions you don’t want to have,” she said. “All of the emotions that a lot of people have the privilege to ignore.”
From the memorial site, Brown’s family locked arms as they marched in the relentless summer heat, pausing for another four and a half minutes before pressing forward toward Greater Saint Marks Church, a place that became a central safe haven for protest groups in the aftermath of last summer’s unrest. Hundreds of people followed behind them, a diverse crowd that ranged the spectrum.
“This is so much more integrated. It used to be very localized. This is regional. This is national,” said Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents Ferguson. “There are more people engaged in St. Louis. Hopefully they can turn into activists.”
To his friends and family he was known as “Big Mike,” a gentle giant who loved rap and turn beats. He had just finished summer school at Normandy High and was looking forward to his first day of college at a trade school nearby.