FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — On the eve of the anniversary of Michael Brown being shot and killed during a confrontation with a police officer, Brown’s father said Saturday that the family still mourns the 18-year-old’s death.
Several weekend events are planned to commemorate Brown’s death. Among them was a parade on Saturday led by Michael Brown Sr., starting at the memorial on Canfield Drive in Ferguson that marks the site where Brown was fatally shot by former officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.
Time has not healed his wounds, Brown said before the procession, in which several hundred people, a drum corps and some cars joined in on the five-mile route to Normandy High School.
“At the end of the day, I still lost my boy,” he said. “I’m still hurting. My family’s still hurting.”
Brown said the anniversary brings back all of the grief and raw emotions, but that it’s important to continue standing up to concerns about police brutality and the use of force. His son’s death helped spur a national “Black Lives Matter” movement. As the parade began, he took an armful of stuffed animals and placed them in the middle of the street where his son died.
The U.S. Justice Department and a St. Louis County grand jury cleared Wilson, who resigned in November, of wrongdoing. A separate Justice Department investigation of Ferguson’s justice system found evidence of a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias by police.
Onlookers were mostly scattered in small clusters on Saturday. Ferguson interim Police Chief Andre Anderson stood alongside St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol on West Florissant Avenue, waving to parade participants and shaking hands with some. The street was the site of protests, looting and riots in the aftermath of Brown’s death.
A vocal group of about 30 people marching in the parade began chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” as they neared the officers, then “Pigs in a blanket fry like bacon.” Otherwise, the crowd was peaceful. Police presence was limited mostly to officers at intersections keeping traffic away from the parade, and there were no immediate reports of confrontations.
Darius Simpson, 22, made the trip to Ferguson from Eastern Michigan University for the weekend and was in the parade. Simpson, who is black, said he had never been an activist until Brown’s death, but said a visit to Ferguson last year during the height of the unrest changed him.
“Something snapped in me, seeing the memorial, seeing how Ferguson reacted inspired me to take it back to Michigan,” Simpson said.
St. Louis resident Carlatta Bussey, 41, brought her 7-year-old son.
“I wanted to show him he needs to stand up for what he believes in,” said Bussey, who is black. “It’s important for him to know he has a voice.”
Hours after the march attended by the elder Brown, hundreds — many with “Black Lives Matter” placards — took part in a similar processional in St. Louis in memory of VonDerrit Myers Jr., a black 18-year-old shot and killed last October by an off-duty St. Louis police officer. The city prosecutor in May announced the officer acted in self-defense after being fired upon by Myers. An attorney for Myers’ family says Myers was not armed.
Another march is planned for Sunday, again starting on Canfield Drive. That procession will stop just before noon for a moment of silence to mark the moment Brown was killed.
Brown’s father said a lot of families in the St. Louis area and across the nation are hurting because they’ve lost loved ones to police violence. Though some groups are pledging civil disobedience in the St. Louis region, Brown urged everyone to mark his son’s death in peace.
“No drama,” he said. “No stupidity, so we can just have some kind of peace.”