FERGUSON, Missouri — Mourners began lining up at a St. Louis church hours before Monday’s funeral of slain teenager Michael Brown. The line snaked around the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church on a sweltering St. Louis morning.
Retired mail carrier Hilliard Phillips, who once delivered on the street where Brown was killed, was among the mourners. He said there’s power in numbers, and he hoped the outpouring of support for Brown and his family would spur society to take a look at itself.
“You can’t really overnight change the behavior of a person, but sometimes they can be coerced in a sweet way. … I would hope they could see people coming together in a solemn way to show their respect to someone,” he said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton was expected to deliver a eulogy discussing the “national view” of Brown’s death more than two weeks after he was shot to death by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.
Before Sharpton speaks, the Rev. Charles Ewing will deliver a eulogy from the family’s perspective, according to a preliminary program provided by organizers.
Brown’s death on August 9 sparked days of sometimes violent protests in the St. Louis suburb and concern over race and police shootings across the country. In the past several days, things have calmed down, and the town is slowly coming back to life.
Among the guests expected to attend the service were Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Bernice King; the Rev Jesse Jackson; the families of Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell; and celebrities Spike Lee, Diddy and Snoop Lion.
The White House is sending three officials to the funeral, including one who attended high school with his mother.
One of them is Broderick Johnson, who leads the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. He’ll be joined by Marlon Marshall, a St. Louis native who attended high school with Brown’s mother, and Heather Foster. Marshall and Foster are part of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., called Sunday for a day of calm during the funeral.
“Please, please take a day of silence so I can, so we can, lay our son to rest,” he told a rally in St. Louis. “Please. It’s all I ask.”
The service comes a day after about 100 friends and family members attended a viewing of Brown’s remains.
Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden, spent about 20 minutes alone with her son, Crump told CNN on Monday. Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr. then joined McSpadden for 10 minutes, followed by Brown’s grandmother, before other friends and family were welcomed in, according to Crump.
In an interview that aired Monday on CNN’s “New Day,” the mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin spoke about McSpadden, saying that Monday will be the “worst day of her life as a mother.”
“There is no words that can bring comfort to her as a mother by seeing her son in a casket,” Sybrina Fulton said.
Fulton appeared with McSpadden and Valerie Bell, whose son died in a police shooting in New York.
Brown’s mother said she feels her son’s presence.
“There’s something about the rain, something about it … I feel him,” she said.
Fulton told her: “He’s there, he’s watching over you.”
On Sunday, music flowed at a memorial at Greater St. Marks Missionary Baptist Church.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. always had music as an element of protest,” said the Rev. E.G. Shields Jr., who helped organize the event. “He knew there was a way that music helped soothe the soul.”
Two weeks after the shooting sparked violent protests, the mood turned more tranquil over the weekend, with smaller crowds and lots of music. Gone were police in riot gear and defiant protesters. The tear gas, rubber bullets and Molotov cocktails were nowhere to be seen, either.
In their place were clusters of officers, hanging around businesses, chatting with one another.
Race has been at the forefront of the tensions; Brown was African-American, and the officer who shot him is white.
Wilson’s supporters held a rally in St. Louis on Sunday, where organizers announced they had raised more than $400,000 for the officer.
St. Louis authorities have released details of the racial and gender makeup of the grand jury that started hearing testimony Wednesday. It is made up of six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man, said Paul Fox, the administrator for the St. Louis County Circuit Court.
St. Louis County is 70% white and 24% black, according to last year’s estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.