Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson says he was afraid for his life in the moments before he killed Michael Brown on Aug. 9, according to an article published Friday by the New York Times. The article cites unnamed “government officials who have been briefed on the federal civil rights investigation” as the source of the details of Wilson’s testimony.
During a rally Saturday in Harlem, the National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton called the article a distraction meant to cool the fervor of those seeking justice for the death of Michael Brown.
Just as St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described on Aug. 10, Wilson’s account says that he fought Brown for control of his gun while inside Wilson’s police car. But The Times gives further detail, saying that Wilson “told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life.”
Sharpton said the phrase “in fear for his life” has become a suspiciously familiar expression, used also by George Zimmerman after he killed Trayvon Martin and by Michael Dunn after he killed Jordan Dunn in the loud-music case.
“Now we got a report: Darren Wilson says he was in fear for his life. The only gun there was Darren Wilson’s. Strange parallels in all of these cases,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton also took issue with the suggestion in The Times that there might not be enough evidence to charge Wilson for civil rights violations.
Citing the 1991 case of Rodney King, Sharpton echoed a statement he made during a rally in Ferguson in August: that excessive force alone can be a civil rights violation.
“If beating Rodney King was excessive…then how is shooting an unarmed man six times not excessive?” Sharpton asked.
Sharpton also announced that he would be returning to Ferguson on October 31 for four days of demonstrations, and that if the Grand Jury fails to indict Wilson that he will call for a national march in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, in Clayton on Saturday about 200 people gathered outside the St. Louis County Justice Center for a Mother’s March organized by four women clergy members: Rev. Karen Anderson of Ward Chapel AME, Rev. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King UCC, Rev. Rebecca Ragland of Episcopal Church of Holy Communion and Professor Leah Gunning Francis of Eden Theological Seminary.
Blackmon said that she and her colleagues were inspired to organize the Mother’s March because they met a grieving mother at almost every event they attended in the weeks following the death of Michael Brown.
“There’s a scripture in Jeremiah that says ‘call for the wailing women’ and we decided that we would call a march to call for the wailing women, that we could cry out that we’ve had enough blood in our streets,” Blackmon said.
Anderson said that the march is a call for an end to all violence, regardless of race or cause.
“We want an end to all violence. Violence of police, violence youth against youth. We want an end to the violence that’s in our society that affects our minority children, whether it’s education, whether it’s health care—you may not consider that violence against our children, but when they don’t have access it’s violence,” Anderson explained.
Francis said that the march was a way of letting their children know that they will stand and fight on their behalf, and Ragland added that the march was also a wake-up call for mothers who did not attend.
“These are all our children,” Ragland said. “They may not look like our children, but they are all our children. All God’s children are important and matter and we need to be standing together, united to say enough is enough. Enough blood has been spilled.”
The event began with four minutes of silence in memory of Michael Brown, followed by a smattering of guest speakers who took turns at the mic. One of Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson’s spoke, as did former state represenative and community leader Betty Thompson.
Then the crowd lined up and marched solemnly once around the justice center. Some men joined the march, but the majority of participants were women. Some women also brought their children along.
In a departure from other Michael Brown marches, the only sound as the group circled was the beat of a drum.
As the marchers came to a stop, Anderson, Blackmon, Ragland and Francis led everyone in singing “We Who Believe in Freedom Will Not Rest.”
According to Anderson, they chose to only march once around the building “so the grandmothers could participate.”
Several other people took turns at the mic following the song, and then Blackmon read a list of names of people who were victims of violence as 110 balloons were passed out.
Anderson said the balloons were intended to symbolize the 110 people who have been killed in the city of St. Louis so far this year. After the reading and the speeches were over, everyone released the balloons into the air.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.