Mother of Michael Brown, the slain Ferguson, Missouri, teenager shuts her eyes at the funeral for her son in St Louis. (AP)
St Louis, Aug. 25 (Reuters): Family and supporters today celebrated the life of Michael Brown, a black teenager slain by police in Ferguson, Missouri, with a music-filled, foot-stomping funeral service and messages to remember him not with violence but with peace.
Brown’s body lay at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in a black and gold casket, topped with the St Louis Cardinals baseball cap he was wearing when he was killed on August 9 in Ferguson.
Thousands of people filled the modern red-brick church and gathered outside on Dr Martin Luther King Drive in St Louis for the exuberant service, a markedly different scene from the violent protests that rocked the St Louis suburb after the shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teen, by a white officer.
Brown’s coffin was surrounded by photos of him as a child, graduating from school and smiling in his Cardinals cap.
“There are no goodbyes for us, wherever you are you will always be in our hearts,” read a sign accompanying one of the photos. High-spirited music by a gospel choir and horn players filled the sanctuary, as mourners clapped their hands and danced in the aisles.
Printed in a programme for the service, were letters to Brown from his parents.
“The day you were born I just know God sent me a blessing and that was you,” wrote Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden.
The letter by Michael Brown Sr read: “I always told you I would never let nothing happen to you and that's what hurts so much, that I couldn't protect you.”
Readings from the Bible were met with whoops and cheers, and family members rose to speak. “I am mad and hurt and that is a lethal combination,” said one relative. “But today is for peace and quiet. We say good journey to Michael until we meet again.”
A member of the clergy also made a plea for peace.
“We must resist the temptation to riot and loot in our neighbourhood. It only gives a bad picture for the world,” he said.