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A Somber Show Of Support At Michael Brown's Funeral


This is NPR News. Funeral services for Michael Brown are taking place this morning. The father of the unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by police just over two weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri, has asked for peace as his son is laid to rest. NPR's David Schaper has been covering this story. He's on the line, and, David, what have you been seeing this morning?

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Well, Steve, the turnout here is huge. There's a long line of people that have been waiting to enter the church. They're going down the block in both directions from the church. But, you know, many people arrived quite early, which kind of helped the process flow pretty smoothly, and the church filled up quickly. The line is diminished quite a bit now. The services are being held at one of the largest churches in the St. Louis area; it's called the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. It can hold 2,500 people in the church itself, and then there's an overflow room flow that can bring the total capacity to 4,000. And officials here are expecting it to be close to full.

INSKEEP: Do you have a sense of the mood of the place and of the people as they're waiting in line?

SCHAPER: Absolutely, I mean, people are really somber. People are really just - really just kind of gripped by what's been happening here - not just the shooting of Michael Brown but the rallies and the protests and everything else that's happened since. A lot of people are kind of dressed in Sunday clothing, if you will. they're kind of - they've got the T-shirts that are commemorating - some of them with the hands up, don't shoot words and logos printed on them. Others just with sayings of support, some even with pictures of Michael Brown. Those who knew him and have pictures had them printed onto T-shirts. People are not shouting or protesting or doing anything like that. It's a very somber mood as they enter the church. And people are taking this incident from both the local perspective, from the family, those close to him, to those national leaders who have jumped into this in a very serious tone.

INSKEEP: So a relatively dignified ceremony this morning. But it is interesting the father's call for peace raises the question of the violent protests of recent days. And I want to tell the people who missed it, David Schaper, you had a very interesting conversation on the air over the weekend with a number of people who are residents of Missouri - Ferguson, Missouri - talking about the protests. And one them actually said, I don't agree with all the violence, but some of it has been useful, he argued because it got you people, it got the media here. It got the attention of the country. What are people saying broadly about the effect of the violence of these protests?

SCHAPER: Well, I think that there's a lot of people here who feel this would've been another police shooting of an unarmed individual that would've gone unnoticed nationally had there not been the giant protests and even the rioting and looting that took place that very first night. That brought national media and national political attention to the area here.

It's an interesting conundrum, though, for some people. Some folks who have lived here for a long time - who are in their 50s and 60s - look at this protest movement and fear that it does more harm than good, that the media attention sometimes focuses more on the actual protesting and the rioting and looting and whether or not there will or won't be any of that each and every night as opposed to the broader issue of how police treat young African-American men and how that treatment can be viewed sometimes as unfair and harassment and devastating to a lot of individuals, as we saw with Mike Brown.

INSKEEP: Well...

SCHAPER: The people...

INSKEEP: In a few seconds, David Schaper, do people now feel that they've gotten their point across, that the country is listening?

SCHAPER: I think that - I think a lot of people do. And I think a lot of people want to wait and see in how this investigation turns out. But they caution that, you know, should there not be charges against the police officer who fired the shots, there could be rioting again. As one person told me, Ferguson could burn.

INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's David Schaper at the funeral of Michael Brown. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.