ST. LOUIS — The mourners filled an enormous church to remember Michael Brown — recalling him as a “gentle giant,” aspiring rapper and recent high school graduate on his way to a technical college.
But the funeral that unfolded Monday was about much more than the black 18-year-old who lay in the closed casket after being shot to death by a white police officer. The emotional service sought to consecrate Brown’s death as another in the long history of the civil rights movement and implored black Americans to change their protest chants into legislation and law.
“Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this,” said Eric Davis, one of Brown’s cousins.
The Rev. Al Sharpton called for a movement to clean up police forces and the communities they serve.
“We’re not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in our community that are wrong need to be dealt with,” Sharpton said.
Two uncles remembered how Brown had once predicted that someday the whole world would know his name.
“He did not know he was offering up a divine prophecy,” Bernard Ewing said.
More than 4,500 mourners filled Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis for the service, which at times seemed like a cross between a gospel revival and a rock concert. It began with upbeat music punctuated by clapping. Some people danced in place.
The crowd included the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old African-American fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, along with a cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old murdered by several white men while visiting Mississippi in 1955. Till’s killing galvanized the civil rights movement.
Also in attendance were several White House aides, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, moviemaker Spike Lee, entertainer Sean Combs and some children of the Rev. Martin Luther King.
The Rev. Charles Ewing, the uncle who delivered the eulogy, said Brown “prophetically spoke his demise.” And now his blood is “crying from the ground. Crying for vengeance. Crying for justice.”
Poster-size photos of Brown, wearing headphones, were on each side of the casket, which had a St. Louis Cardinals ball cap atop it. Large projection screens showed a photo of him clutching his high school diploma while wearing a cap and gown. Two days after his death, he had been scheduled to start training to become a heating and air-conditioning technician.