Before the Chaos: Sermons & Reminiscence

     FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) – As street preachers delivered a message of peace Sunday, Charles Ewing sat quietly under a tent on West Florissant Avenue, remembering his nephew, Michael Brown.
     Ewing’s nephew’s shooting death at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, has become a symbol of racism and excessive police force. As throngs of people marched, chanted and demonstrated in Brown’s memory throughout the weekend, Brown’s family continued to mourn the loss of their loved one.
     “He was very quiet and reserved,” Ewing told Courthouse News. “We called him the gentle giant. He wouldn’t play football because he was so timid he didn’t want to hurt anyone.”
     Ewing, like many protesters, questioned the media portrayal of Brown, especially the reports that he had robbed a convenience store 10 minutes before he was shot.
     “They came out with this supposed strong-armed robbery, but what the media didn’t say is it wasn’t the same day,” Ewing said. He said it is impossible to walk in 10 minutes from the store that was robbed to the place where Brown was shot, as police reports claim.
     “It was fabricated,” Brown’s uncle said.
     Sunday was the first anniversary of Brown’s death, which set off increased scrutiny of police killings nationwide, particularly fatal shootings of young black men. Hundreds of people took to the streets across the country over the weekend, in what has become known as the Black Lives Matter movement.
     Ewing was part of a multi-denominational Christian contingent that set up shop a few blocks from where his nephew was killed.
     A band played gospel music and ministers preached to the crowd. One group from the contingent spread goodwill by passing out cold water to protesters, as the St. Louis area withered under a heat advisory.
     Former pro basketball player and local hoops legend Anthony Bonner, now a minister, was one of those who preached.
     “I’m just hoping for the will of God to be done,” Bonner said. “God has a plan for each of us. The only way true healing can take place is through a true relationship with God.”
     Jeff Riddering, of South Gate Church, helped organize the group.
     “They say no justice, no peace,” Riddering told Courthouse News. “We say without Jesus, there is no peace, because He is peace.”
     First-anniversary protests were held all weekend throughout the St. Louis region.
     On Friday a concert in St. Louis honored Brown. On Saturday protesters marched from where he was killed to Normandy High School, from which Brown had graduated just weeks before he was killed.
     Members of the Missouri Highway Patrol passed out bottles of water to protesters as they marched the 5-mile route in 90-plus degree temperatures.
     Earlier Sunday, a memorial to Brown where he died was attended by 1,000 people, including his parents.
     Protesters said they were planning a day of civil disobedience Monday, but declined to offer details.
     “I would just tell everybody form what I understand, go to work early on Monday and expect some traffic and highway shutdowns, because that’s likely what they would do,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said Thursday.

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