The Rev. Al Sharpton gave an impassioned plea today that slain Ferguson teenager Michael Brown not be remembered as someone who sparked violent clashes but as someone who caused America to change the way police treat citizens.
"Michael Brown wants to be remembered for making America deal with how we are going to police in the United States," Sharpton said to rousing applause at Brown's funeral today. "We are required in his name to change the country."
Brown, 18, was killed when a police officer in his hometown of Ferguson , Mo., shot him six times after a scuffle in the street on Aug. 9, setting off two weeks of protests and clashes with police.
The funeral today at the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in St. Louis was attended by hundreds of supporters, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, a delegation from the White House, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill,D-Mo., members of Congress, and many civil rights activists and clergy.
The ceremony was filled with music, song, dance, and clapping, along with tearful moments among Brown's parents and family members. Brown's stepmother told the congregation that Michael had been having visions of death in the weeks before his death.
Cal Brown, who is married to Michael's father, referred to her stepson as "Mike Mike." She said that they had been having conversations about God this summer and when she was in the hospital a month ago, he told Cal Brown that he was afraid she would "not make it."
"Mike Mike told me, 'I didn’t think you were going to make it.' And I said why and he said, 'Because I've been dreaming of death, seeing pictures of death, seeing pictures of bloody sheets hanging on clotheslines,'" Cal Brown told the church filled with mourners. "That touched me. That’s what it was like when he was laying there on the street (after being shot). He prophesized his own death."
Cal Brown also said that on the day of his high school graduation earlier this summer, Michael Brown had told his father and stepmother that he wanted the world to know who he was.
"We took him out to lunch after graduation and he was talking about God," she said. "And he said, 'someday the world is going to know my name.'"
Many of the speakers at his funeral called for justice for Brown's death, including Sharpton, who criticized police for leaving Brown's body lying in the street for hours after his death.
"Once you put on that state badge and gun, you cannot react like another citizen because you are supposed to be trained above that. You should expect that in our community like in any other community. No community in America would tolerate an 18-year-old boy lying in the street for four and a half hours and we won’t either."
"This is about justice," he said. "This is about fairness. And America is going to have to come to terms with (the fact) there’s something wrong," Sharpton told the mourners.
A grand jury is hearing evidence to determine whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting.
Many speakers at the funeral spoke of freedom, justice, and equal rights during the funeral, as well as calling for peace. A full choir and band punctuated the prayers and speeches, frequently bringing hundreds of attendees to their feet clapping.
Many speakers cited Brown's growing faith and interest in religion in the weeks before his death. Cal Brown said she and Michael had recently completed reading the Biblical books of Genesis and Revelation together.
"He was truly curious about what God had to offer," she said. "He had opened his heart to God."
A St. Louis Cardinals hat was placed atop the black and gold coffin of Michael Brown at of his funeral this morning, more than two weeks after he was shot and killed by a police officer while wearing a similar hat in the city of Ferguson.