ST. LOUIS — The mother of an unarmed black teenager whose shooting death by a white police officer sparked racial unrest near St. Louis appeared briefly Thursday night during an anti-brutality gathering near the city's Gateway Arch, urging through a relative for peace to prevail.
In downtown St. Louis, in a tiny park between the landmark Gateway Arch and an old courthouse famous for the Dred Scott slavery case in the mid-1800s, several hundred people — seemingly an equal number white and black — gathered in Michael Brown's memory.
The site was just a short drive from Ferguson, where Michael Brown — 18 and unarmed — was shot dead by a white police officer, stoking racial divide in that suburb where two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black and all but three of the 53 police officers are white.
Ushered into the event on the arms of one of her late son's cousins, Eric Davis, Lesley McSpadden did not address the crowd but waved, drawing applause from the throng as a show of support as she wiped away tears beneath her dark sunglasses — her son not yet buried as the investigation of his death involving the still-unidentified officer pressed on.
"What happened the other night to our cousin doesn't need to continue," Davis, speaking by megaphone for McSpadden, said before calling the circumstances of Brown's death "a senseless killing by the men hired to protect and serve."
The group later marched to Busch Stadium.
The observance was among many staged nationwide, each with a minute of silence for Brown and others affected by alleged police brutality.
The St. Louis gathering's peacefulness was in marked contrast to a night of looting and frequent clashes between demonstrators and police in Ferguson since Brown's death.
"We come together today for this reason of healing," Bishop Elliott Coleman of St. Louis' El Bethel Temple Church said in prayerfully opening the observance, monitored by some two dozen police officers strategically stationed around the park. "Realize there are tears in every city, tears in homes, tears in the eyes of young people, tears in the eyes of old people. The tears need to be wiped away, and the hearts need to be healed."
Kathryn Reynolds, a 34-year-old dog groomer from St. Charles west of St. Louis, told The Associated Press she came to "mourn for all lost to (alleged police brutality), not just Michael but everybody."
"This is a national issue. I don't think this all stems from Ferguson — that just pushed everyone over the edge," said Reynolds, a married mother of two kids, ages 11 and 10. "I want the streets to be safe for my babies, and that those there to protect them will. There are enough other things to worry about already."