August 25, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Michael Brown's funeral inspires calls for social activism

The casket of Michael Brown sits inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church awaiting the start of his funeral on Aug. 25, 2014, in St. Louis Missouri. Michael Brown,18 year-old unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the nearby town of Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. His death caused several days of violent protests along with rioting and looting in Ferguson. (Pool / Getty Images)

St. Louis — The mourners filled an enormous church to remember Michael Brown — a “gentle giant,” aspiring rapper and recent high school graduate on his way to a technical college.

But the funeral that unfolded Monday was about much more than the black 18-year-old who lay in the closed casket after being shot to death by a white police officer. The emotional service sought to consecrate Brown’s death as another in the long history of the civil rights movement and implored black Americans to change their protest chants into legislation and law.

“Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this,” said Eric Davis, one of Brown’s cousins.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called for a movement to clean up police forces and the communities they serve.

“We’re not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in our community that are wrong need to be dealt with,” Sharpton said.

In Detroit, about 75 people gathered for a prayer vigil Monday evening in front of the McNamara Building. Called To Ferguson from Detroit with Love, the gathering shows that Detroit cares and understands, said Elder Leslie Matthews from Triumphant Life Christian Church.

“Not only do we feel your pain we’re asking, we’re demanding and we’re going to walk, talk by whatever means necessary to get justice for Michael Brown,” Matthews said. “He doesn’t have a life anymore, but he can and he will get justice.”

Several pastors lead the group in prayer during the event which lasted a little more than an hour.

In St. Louis, more than 4,500 mourners filled Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church for the service, which at times seemed like a cross between a gospel revival and a rock concert. It began with upbeat music punctuated by clapping. Some mourners danced in place.

The crowd included the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old African-American fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, along with a cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old murdered by several white men while visiting Mississippi in 1955.

Also in attendance were White House aides, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, moviemaker Spike Lee, entertainer Sean Combs and some children of Martin Luther King.

The Rev. Charles Ewing, the uncle who delivered the eulogy, said Brown “prophetically spoke his demise.” And now his blood is “crying from the ground. Crying for vengeance. Crying for justice.”

Poster-size photos of Brown, wearing headphones, were on each side of the casket, which had a St. Louis Cardinals ball cap atop it. Large projection screens showed a photo of him clutching his high school diploma while wearing a cap and gown.

Brown’s death fueled nearly two weeks of street protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. But his father, Michael Brown Sr., asked protesters to observe a “day of silence” Monday to let the family grieve.

The request appeared to be honored. At the Ferguson Police Department, where a small but steady group of protesters have stood vigil for two weeks, a handmade sign announced a “break for funeral.”

Brown was unarmed when he was shot Aug. 9 by officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury is considering the case and a federal investigation is underway.

Detroit News reporter Candice Williams contributed.

Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, second from left, stands next to ... (Alex Sanz / AP)
People begin to line up to attend the funeral for Michael Brown, Aug. 25, ... (Jeff Roberson / AP)