FERGUSON, Mo. – Seven years after Michael Brown Jr. was killed by a Ferguson police officer, family, friends, and neighbors gathered on Canfield Drive under the heat of the midday sun to remember.
“It’s almost like it just happened,” said Michael Brown Sr. “I can feel the energy of what was out here Aug. 9, 2014. I can feel the chants and still see the dogs barking at us and almost biting my daughter on this hill. I can see people. I can see people I’ve never known in my life stand up for somebody that they never knew.”
Through sweat, tears, and stories, community and family members remembered the 18-year-old shot and killed by a former police officer after an altercation with former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
“That was the longest and hardest four and a half hours for our family,” said Cal Brown, Michael Jr.’s stepmother. “It’s even harder to come out here every year to the same space where so much hurt and pain came from. But the bigger we do it is to be here for the community that stood up for us.”
The Michael Brown Chosen for Change Foundation hosted a Ferguson Rises weekend culminating with Monday’s gathering at Canfield Green Apartments to remember the life of the teenager.
“Now, I know for a fact as activists, we know we save lives,” said Rep. Cori Bush. “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that every time our feet hit the ground, every time we watch someone beat with batons or the tear gas came at us, every time we ran from the rubber bullets, or when they ambushed us from behind the trees, and when the white supremacists shot at us from beyond those hills and we stood.”
Brown’s death is seen by many as a key spark that started the Black Lives Matter movement.
Wilson claimed he shot Brown in self-defense. A grand jury would later agree and decide not to charge Wilson with a crime. The protests that resulted from the way Brown’s body was handled to the outcome of the grand jury had protests lasting for months.
The protests sparked fires that burned Ferguson businesses to the ground. Looters ravaged small businesses. Police responded with riot gear, military-style tanks, and tear gas.
In the end, the Justice Department decided not to charge Wilson with a civil rights violation but they found deep racial issues in the court system and police department. Municipal court reform would follow. The DOJ report found the Ferguson Police Department had a pattern of racial bias and unreasonable force against African Americans.