For the past five years, the family, friends and many who never met Michael Brown, Jr., have gathered to remember him, to continue a healing process, to promote justice and to never forget what happened August 9, 2014, in a small town outside of St. Louis.
But when the unarmed 18 year old was shot down by White officer Darren Wilson and lay on the streets on a scorching hot day in Ferguson, Mo., it wasn’t just another Black teen killed in what many felt was cold blood. It was an outrage that ignited an uprising, months of protests, exposed the ugly reality of the lack of value on Black life and the police terror under which Black folk lived, not just in Missouri but across the country.
“Justice for Mike Brown” was a rallying cry and it rang across America as this young man’s name was added to those already enshrined on a sacred scroll of martyrs, those whose lives were claimed under dubious circumstances at best and outright murder at worst.
Darren Wilson and the authorities would concoct a story of a huge Black brute who ran headfirst at an armed officer and the epitome of White fears and White lies: A Black menace, unstoppable, enraged, charging the thin Blue Line that keeps the brutes at bay and makes America a safe place to live.
Then came the lies: An image of Mike, Jr., and a storeowner and the story that he had been engaged in a strong-armed robbery. Untrue. But it helped to muddy the waters and verify what many Whites wanted to believe anyway. “No police officer would shoot someone without cause, there had to be a reason”–and the official lie provided cover for those who sought it.
There was no robbery and the still image was purposely selected from a videotape by police who did not release the full tape. And, no call of robbery had gone out that Off. Wilson was responding to. The initial encounter between Mike Jr., and another young man and Officer Wilson should have been a traffic infraction, if anything at all.
How could a basic interaction turn into a fatal encounter? How do you explain that to parents who lost a beloved son, siblings who lost a brother, friends and a national Black community that saw each of our sons in the image of Mike Brown?
In any other context, such an escalation and killing would not be accepted nor tolerated. But because it was a Black child none of the regular rules apply. This was an extraordinary death in what at best should have been an ordinary circumstance.
But despite the enormity of the injustice and inability to logically defend this tragedy, a hurting and courageous father makes a most reasonable request: Re-open the case and reexamine the death of my son.
Despite heartrending pain felt by Mike Brown, Sr., and felt by Lezley McSpadden for the tragic loss of her son, a reasonable request has been made. Nevermind that there is widespread belief the system failed miserably and widespread belief it was stacked against justice from the beginning, here comes a reasonable request.
Mike Brown, Sr., made the request Aug. 9 outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center of Wesley Bell, a former Ferguson city councilman, who last summer unseated former county prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch, who was the target of protests as demands for justice for Mike, Jr., persisted for years after this death. Mr. Bell now serves as prosecutor for St. Louis County, Mo., and could look into the case. He is a Black man.
“I definitely don’t feel like he owes me nothing, I do feel like he needs to do his job,” said Mike, Sr.
“My son was murdered in cold blood with no remorse,” continued Mike, Sr., who was accompanied by his wife, Cal, his children and families from around the country who have lost loved ones, often to police violence. They came to town to mark the weekend anniversary of his son’s passing at the invite of the Michael Brown, Jr., Foundation and Chosen for Change.
“I am demanding evidence to be analyzed and accountability to follow,” said Mike, Sr. “I will stand and fight until the day I die for justice. Not too much has changed. My son was not the first to die by the hands of those who vow to protect and serve, and sadly he won’t be the last.
“If it’s able to be opened, we’ll have a day in court, if not (Mr. Bell) said we won’t be doing anything, but I am here today in front of you and the world to demand that someone look into the case,” said Mike, Sr. The evidence doesn’t match up and everyone lied and covered up from the police chief at the time to the former county prosecutor, he said. My son’s hands were up, according to a private investigator hired by the family, and the police lied and said that Mike, Jr., was involved in a strongarm robbery, he continued. At least six shots struck Mike Jr., and a fatal shot is believed to have struck him in the head.
Events and public concern can wield political consequences and it would be ridiculous and insulting to not credit the unseating of a near 30-year prosecutor last summer by Mr. Bell, at least in part, to the problems in policing and demands for change–which include a federal consent decree in Ferguson. Without a doubt, the issue of police reform was a major concern for Black folks, and they elected Mr. Bell with that item on the list of items they desired that he tackle.
Elections, they say, have consequences. They may mean tax cuts and downsizing, new plans and expenditures, a heavier police presence and; or stricter law enforcement. The elected prosecutor’s priorities will reflect the concerns of those who voted him in. So, if police reform was a major concern of Black voters, who have suffered under a racially unjust system that undervalued and disposed of Black lives, should not the new prosecutor take up that important matter?
Mike Brown, Sr. isn’t asking for a stacked deck or a predetermined outcome, he is simply asking a Black prosecutor to do his job and to do his job absent the biases of the past. What more could an elected official be asked for and don’t Black folks have a right to expect those who hold elected office to answer their needs? Otherwise what are we voting for and how can anyone speak to us of law and order?
Reopening the case of Mike Brown, Jr., is a reasonable request and it should, it must, be honored.