ABOVE PHOTO: Michael Brown (AP photo)
By Jim Salter
FERGUSON, Mo. — Michael Brown’s death “opened the eyes of the world” to concerns about law enforcement’s treatment of black people, Brown’s father said Tuesday during a memorial service marking the two-year anniversary of the shooting.
A few hundred people gathered for the service and moment of silence along Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri — the spot where the black, unarmed 18-year-old was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson after a confrontation on Aug. 9, 2014. It led to months of sometimes-violent protests in Ferguson.
A state grand jury declined to press charges against Wilson, and the U.S. Justice Department later cleared him, concluding that he had acted in self-defense. He resigned in November 2014.
Brown’s death also was a catalyst for the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which rebukes police treatment of minorities and has grown following several other killings of black men and boys by police, such as Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Brown’s father, also named Michael Brown, said in a brief speech that the anniversary is a sad day for him and his family, but for the world, too.
“My son built families up, opened the eyes of the world and let them know this ain’t right,” he said. “This color is not a disease. This color is beautiful. Black is beautiful.”
The 2014 shooting also led to a Justice Department investigation that found patterns of racial bias in Ferguson’s police and municipal court system. The federal agency and the city agreed this year to make sweeping changes.
This month, more than 60 organizations affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement released a list of six demands and 40 recommendations for how to achieve policing and criminal justice reforms.
Brandy Shields, 19, went to school with Brown and remembered him as a kid who “never got into trouble.” Shields comforted a little girl who was crying at the service.
“It’ll get better,” Shields told the child. “We have to make it better, but it’ll get better.”