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Memorials, protests in Ferguson on the sixth anniversary of Michael Brown’s death

By Bryce Gray and Rachel Rice
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON — About 100 people gathered in a Ferguson street Sunday to mark the sixth anniversary of the shooting death of local teenager Michael Brown by a police officer — an event that not only resonated throughout the community, but came to ignite a national movement and conversation around racial inequalities and injustice.

Sunday’s memorial service — held in front of an apartment complex on a painted and flower-strewn patch of pavement on Canfield Drive, where the 18-year-old died — featured speeches from local leaders, as well as Brown’s friends and family members.

It was made clear that, even as the years pass, plenty of heartache remains.

“Today, it’s just still hard,” said Michael Brown Sr., reflecting on his son’s death and its aftermath. “Over the years, going through and coming to this site, I was very angry.”

“Coming here every single year does not get easier,” added Cori Bush, a local activist who unseated longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary, and is poised to become Missouri’s first Black congresswoman in November’s general election.

“This is the fate of so many across our country,” she said. “He didn’t have to die.”

The event included four and a half minutes of silence in Brown’s honor — one moment for every hour that his body remained in the roadway.

This year’s anniversary falls just more than a week after St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell announced that, after reopening an investigation into Brown’s death, his office would not issue charges against Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot him. Bell said that, while Wilson was not exonerated, he concluded there was not sufficient evidence to pursue murder or manslaughter charges or disprove self-defense.

Multiple speakers on Sunday — including members of Brown’s family — expressed anguish and frustration with the decision.

Sunday’s memorial also comes as the nation is embroiled in conversations about racial inequality that are as loud and widespread as any since Brown’s death helped catalyze the Black Lives Matter movement amid 2014’s high-profile protests in Ferguson.

“Six years later, the fight continues, and we’re still fighting for justice for everybody and equality for everybody,” said Jason Armstrong, Ferguson’s new police chief appointed in 2019, who also spoke at the event.

He said that recent deaths of Black people at the hands of police around the country may make it seem like there has not been progress since Brown died. But he said the ensuing groundswell of activism sparked in Ferguson added crucial momentum to the broader conversation on race that is still playing out today.