Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 25 — Many thousands of people, the majority of them standing outside the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, gathered here in solidarity today to comfort the family of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9.
Brown’s mother and father, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., were accompanied by notable public figures, including Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Sen. Claire McCaskill and Rep. Maxine Waters. Sharpton delivered the eulogy.
Most of the people present had not known Michael Brown, but those from the Ferguson area do know the atmosphere of raw terror produced by the police who are now engaged in an extreme version of military occupation against their community.
While traveling to the funeral, a cab driver born in Nigeria told this reporter of the many instances of harassment and terror he has experienced. The driver, afraid to give his name for fear of repercussions from the cops, said, “I approached a stop sign and I stopped. A cop pulled up to me, and he was Black. He pulled me out of the car window when I asked him what I’d done and just started beating me.” The driver was then told to leave and threatened again.
In Ferguson there are 53 cops, three of whom are Black. The majority white, racist police force in Ferguson undoubtedly puts much pressure on these Black cops to “prove” themselves. The cab driver added that Black people cannot even drive in the nearby town of Calverton Park without great risk of being stopped and beaten.
The cab drivers themselves are also encouraged to follow racist codes when dealing with outlying areas of Ferguson. He said that when you take a job as a driver, you’re told not to pick up Black people.
Outside the funeral, an older man who also didn’t want to be identified said he’d been beaten when he was a teenager by a cop who mistook him for someone else. “He took me out of the car, then broke three of my ribs with the butt of his shotgun, then pointed it at me and, after staring at me, realized I wasn’t who he was looking for.”
Many youth at the funeral said they were providing security so that the cops wouldn’t be needed. They also spoke of many violent incidents they had experienced that were caused by the police.
All these events occurred well before the horrible murder of Michael Brown. So the message of “peace and stay out of the streets,” to paraphrase remarks delivered by Rev. Sharpton and some of the clergy here, is not resonating with many youth. In their eyes the only reason the government, the country and the world are taking this latest example of police brutality so seriously is exactly because the youth refuse to remain quiet, docile and vulnerable.