Jordan Davis' father, other mourners gather to support Michael Brown's family

Published On: Aug 25 2014 05:45:13 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 25 2014 11:39:51 PM EDT

Ron Davis knows what it's like to lose a child to gunfire---his son was shot and killed in 2012. So he traveled to Missouri to lend support to Michael Brown's family . Channel 4's Kumasi Aaron spoke with him.

ST. LOUIS -

The mourners filled an enormous church to remember Michael Brown -- a "gentle giant," aspiring rapper and recent high school graduate on his way to a technical college.

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 mourners danced in place.

Hours before the doors of the church opened, the line of people waiting to attend the funeral wrapped around the building.

Channel 4's Kumasi Aaron was in St. Louis and spoke with people at the funeral. She said they told her the memorial was encouraging, peaceful and hopeful.

“The message (I want to send) is that people are misinterpreting the purpose of why we are here today,” said Recordia Kennedy, who was at the funeral with her son. “A lot of people came out and were expressing about a black and white thing, and it's not about that. It's about a person that has lost their child.”

But Drew Dellinger, who traveled to Missouri from Caifornia, had a different message.

“I think it's really important that all people in our country take a stand against systemic racism, take a stand against police brutality,” Dellinger told News4Jax. “This outrageous type of activity has been happening in communities of color for so long, and it's not just going to be communities of color that have to fix it. It's going to have to be all of us that have to come together.”

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.

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 Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old murdered by several white men while visiting Mississippi in 1955. Till's killing galvanized the civil rights movement.

Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis, a black teenager shot and killed by a white man at a gas station after an argument over loud music, and his wife traveled from Jacksonville to attend the funeral and support Brown's family. Ron Davis said he understands the family's loss.

“I just feel like Mike Brown needs all the support we can give him,” Ron Davis said. “We are here to support him and to make sure that people understand that Mike Brown wants peace. This is a peaceful day. He wants to bury his son.”

Ron Davis said he was able to have a private moment with Brown's parents and was moved that they embraced him in return. He said they exchanged contact information and will stay in touch.

“I just felt like there was so much energy, so much love, so much peace inside of there,” Ron Davis said. “And the Brown family, I just saw the look on their face and they absorbed all this love.”

Also in attendance were several White House aides, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, moviemaker Spike Lee, entertainer Sean Combs and some children of Martin Luther King.

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.

Sharpton also took the black community to task, saying it should be as upset about black-on-black crime as it is about police violence: "We have to be outraged by our disrespect for each other."

"Blackness," he added, "has never been about being a gangster or a thug."

Money and possessions prestige mean little, he said, "if we can't protect a child walking down the street in Ferguson and protect him and bring justice."

Brown's death fueled nearly two weeks of street protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. But his father, Michael Brown Sr., asked protesters to observe a "day of silence" Monday to let the family grieve.

The request appeared to be honored. At the Ferguson Police Department, where a small but steady group of protesters have stood vigil for two weeks, a handmade sign announced a "break for funeral." On Monday afternoon, the West Florissant Avenue commercial corridor was also devoid of protesters, whose ranks have typically swelled as days turned to nights.

Brown was unarmed when he was shot Aug. 9 by officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and a federal investigation is also underway.

Police have said a scuffle broke out after Wilson told Brown and a friend to move out of the street and onto a sidewalk. Police said Wilson was pushed into his squad car and physically assaulted. Some witnesses have reported seeing Brown's arms in the air in an act of surrender. An autopsy found Brown was shot at least six times.

Relatives denounced a video released by police, who say it shows Brown snatching cigars from a convenience store just before he was killed. In the video, the person said to be Brown is seen grabbing a clerk by the shirt and forcefully pushing him into a display rack.

Family and friends said Brown had a gentle, joking manner and dubbed himself "Big Mike." He was good at fixing things, liked computer games, the rappers Lil Wayne and Drake, the movie "Grown Ups 2" and the TV show "Family Guy."

Monday also marked the first day back at school for students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Classes had been scheduled to begin Aug. 14 but were postponed because of safety concerns.

"We're ready to move forward," said Marcus Baker, a junior at McCluer South-Berkeley High School. "But we're still going to remember him."

Nearly a dozen people gathered in Jacksonville's Hemming Plaza Monday night to honor Michael Brown.  The group held a demonstration, marching and chanting "No Justice, No Peace."