Michael Brown's death commemorated with 2nd weekend march

Weekend events commemorated the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, whose death sparked violent clashes between protesters and police. The unarmed black man was fatally shot by a white police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Hundreds gathered in silence for 4 1/2 minutes to symbolize hours Brown's body lay in street

A memorial in memory of Michael Brown is seen in a sidewalk near where Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo. Sunday marks one year since Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)

One year after the shooting that cast greater scrutiny on how police interact with black communities, the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was marked Sunday with 4 1/2 minutes of silence and a march led by his father.

A crowd of hundreds that had gathered to commemorate Brown began their silence at 12:02 p.m., the time he was killed, for a length of time that symbolized the 4 1/2 hours that his body lay in the street after he was killed. Two doves were released at the end. Police largely remained away from the ceremony.

Michael Brown Sr. spoke Sunday, telling people that if not for them, his son's killing would have been "swept under the carpet."

A police spokesperson told reporters that about six shots were fired near the procession Sunday but that it was unclear whether it was related to the commemoration or if anyone was injured.

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 on Saturday 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."

Several weekend events commemorated the anniversary of Brown's death on Aug. 9, 2014, which sparked sometimes violent clashes between protesters and police, unfolding before the nation on live television.

Brown's death helped spur a national "Black Lives Matter" movement that raised difficult questions about law enforcement attitudes toward minorities and the militarization of police.

Brown Sr. led a march on Saturday that started at the memorial on Canfield Drive that marks the site where Brown was fatally shot.

A memorial at the site in Ferguson where Michael Brown was killed nearly a year ago. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)
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 eight-kilometre 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."

Pausing along the march route at a permanent memorial for his son, Michael Brown Sr. said, "Miss you."

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. 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 — the site of protests, looting and riots in the aftermath of Brown's death — waving to parade participants and shaking hands with some.

A vocal group of about 30 people marching in the Saturday 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.

Young Americans impacted

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.

Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., above, has urged people to mark his son's death in peace. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

"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 Saturday 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-defence after being fired upon by Myers. An attorney for Myers' family says Myers was not armed.

Brown graduated from high school weeks before the shooting and planned to go to trade school to study to become a heating and air conditioning technician.

With files from Reuters