When Michael Brown Sr., came to the spot where his son — Michael Brown Jr. — was killed, he had the marker to show where a worldwide movement began.
Carrying a hefty plaque that honors his son, the elder Michael Brown placed the soon-to-be-permanent memorial on a grassy spot that separates Canfield Road and the sidewalk. With rain dripping down the bill of his Cardinals baseball cap, he declared: “This is permanent for what happened to Mike Brown and for what happened to him at Canfield.”
“Today is his birthday, it really means a lot,” he later added.
Surrounded by family, friends and onlookers, Michael Brown Sr. helped take apart a temporary memorial near the Canfield Green Apartment Complex that had become a symbol of his son’s death. He had forged an agreement with the city of Ferguson, the owner of the apartment complex and others to replace the temporary tribute with a plaque and a dove fixed to the ground.
Brown Sr. and Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III together announced that the memorial was coming down. Brown Sr. said he wanted to move the temporary memorial so “we mark a new chapter in our life and to remember in his legacy.
“Not a day that goes by do I don’t think about my son. And not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how I can help other young men to just go forward in life,” Brown Sr. said. “There are three things that I want to just let people know that was good about my son. I’ll start out by saying one — he was loved. He was a good person. And he loved his siblings.”
The items that made up the temporary memorial will be housed within the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Knowles and Brown, Sr., told reporters. The aforementioned plaque and dove should be installed tomorrow, while Canfield Road itself will likely be repaved later this week.
“This is part of that healing process,” said Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell. “One thing I can say about our city is that we’re moving forward. And the citizens are right on board with us.”
Brown’s memorial is considered something of hallowed ground for a protest movement that sprung up after the 18-year-old’s death at the hands of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Consisting primarily of stuffed animals and flowers, it was situated in the middle of Canfield Drive and around a lamppost next to a sidewalk.
Last September, the memorial went up and flames – and that likely contributed to a tense night that led to arrests in front of a vandalized beauty supply store. It was ultimately replenished and has largely withstood the elements for months.
Still, Janie Jones of the Joint Council on Policy and Social Impact said negotiations had been going on for a while to remove the temporary memorial and replace it was something more permanent.
She said her group has been “facilitating conversations and negotiations between the family and the city and the community in helping move the city forward in a way that allows everyone to kind of unify, knowing that this memorial is such a sensitive issue.”
She said the new memorial is being paid for with private money— not at Ferguson’s expense. And she emphasized that Brown Sr. was not being forced to move the temporary memorial on what would have been his son’s 19th birthday.
“There’s no one being forced to move it. The city is responsible for anything that happens on that street. So God forbid somebody gets hit by a car or anything of that nature,” Jones said. “So Mr. Brown is doing this in honor of his son on his birthday. He’s going to try and take this day every year to do something positive for the community, to give back. And this is his first effort and attempt to do that.”
Brown Sr. alluded to some of the liability possibilities during the news conference with Knowles. He added that his son’s memory “would never leave the area — even if the marker wasn’t there.
“We’re just trying to move forward. It’s hazardous out there for the community,” he said. “It’s been out there. It’s been raining, and it went through snow. It went through all types of different weather problems to just where it just needed to be moved. And whatever else we need to do to move forward as far as putting another marker down, that’s what we’re going to do.”
“He was a fun person. He loved everything that was fun,” he added. “He was just a happy person. Whatever I can do to keep that movement going forward that way, I think it will shine on everyone.”