Michael Brown laid to rest today; controversy lives on

ST. LOUIS — Mourners began lining up under a blistering sun more than three hours before the start of Monday's funeral for Ferguson teen Michael Brown.

By 9 AM CST, still an hour before the scheduled start, lines snaked around the corner and down a full city block on either side of the mammoth red-brick Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

Fifteen minutes later and 45 minutes before the funeral was to begin, police informed visitors that the church had reached its 3,500-person capacity. They directed them to an adjacent auditorium that seats an additional 2,500 people, who will watch the service on giant screens.

Brown's body will be laid to rest here Monday, but the controversy swirling around his death is far from over. The black teen was fatally shot by a white police officer in predominantly black Ferguson Aug. 9, setting off almost two weeks of sometimes violent protests.

On Monday morning, the atmosphere was subdued. Johnnie Shegog, 57, of St. Louis, stood in line amid rising temperatures. She knew Michael Brown, 18 when he died, since he was 4 years old and the family for two decades.

"I'm hoping this day lifts us up, turns things around," she said. "Not just for St. Louis, but the entire nation."

Angela Jones-Peaks, 43, of nearby Jennings, asked her supervisor for a few hours off Monday morning to attend the service. Having two sons of her own motivated her to attend, she said.

"It's scary every time they leave home," Jones-Peaks said. "I wanted to support this family, let them know we're here for them."

Several men guarded two double doors to a side entrance of the church, waiting for family members. They asked each person approaching that door for a purple wristband that family members had been told to wear.

Inside, members of Brown's family sat in a waiting area just outside the doors to the part of the church where the service will be held. Many nervously chatted and talked about the loss of someone so young.

On Sunday, the teen's parents saw their son for the first time since his death and tried to prepare for a burial that will test their strength.

About 100 family members and friends gathered Sunday for a private viewing of Brown's body at Austin A. Layne Mortuary. They gazed at Brown, who lay with his arms crossed in a gold and black casket. He wore a blue-and-white-checked shirt, a navy blue sweater vest and a neatly tied red-and-blue-striped bow tie. He showed no sign of the gunshots that ended his life Aug. 9.

Brown's parents each spent time alone with his body. Then other people came in.

"They say tomorrow is going to be the hardest day, but I think today was — just seeing my baby laying there, cold," Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, 34, told USA TODAY. "It did something to my heart. It's too much. It's too much."

Michael Brown Sr. said seeing his son's dead body made the past two weeks real.

"It was a dream," Brown, 36, told USA TODAY. "It's a reality now. I can't really explain how I feel. I'm torn, hurt, upset and angry. I can't explain."

He said he wanted Monday, the day of his son's funeral, to be without demonstrations.

"I really don't want protesters tomorrow," the father said. "Our son needs to have a moment of silence for tomorrow."


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