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Michael Brown, Sr., walks in with his daughter, Mikelle Brown, before speaking to students and faculty on the campus of Chattanooga State Technical Community College on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Brown is the father of Michael Brown, Jr., who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

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Father of Ferguson shooting victim speaks at Chattanooga State

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To learn about Michael Brown’s foundation, go to michaelodbrown.org or the Facebook page The Michael Brown Chosen For Change Foundation

The father of Ferguson, Mo., shooting victim Michael Brown Jr. said Wednesday in Chattanooga his son was demonized by media portrayals of him as a robber and a thug.

Michael Brown Sr. said his 18-year-old son's character was attacked through online videos of a robbery his son committed before he was shot to death by a police officer. There also is an online video of the younger Brown beating an apparently elderly man with gray hair.

"Everyone was a teenager at some point, and everybody did crazy stuff and they try to find their way," Brown said. "Sadly, his way was taken before that Monday, when he would have started college."

The Aug. 9, 2014, fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr., who was black, by a 28-year-old white officer touched off protests and social unrest across the nation.

The elder Brown came to Chattanooga to talk about his son's death and the Michael Brown Chosen For Change Foundation he created to help families and other men whose children have died from violence. The second speaker in a social justice speaking series sponsored by the school's criminal justice department, Brown was scheduled to speak again on Wednesday night.

Brown described to his audience of more than 200 Chattanooga State Community College faculty and students how Ferguson residents were traumatized by tanks rolling through their streets shooting tear gas, and living under imposed curfews that he said caused some late-shift workers to lose their jobs.

"Nobody sees that except people in Iraq," Brown said.

He talked about the disrespect he felt when police officers high-fived each other, talked and laughed casually while his son lay dead in the street. No one offered him comfort or tried to answer his questions, he said.

Asked about his position on the Black Lives Matter movement that began in 2012 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Brown said he opposed the group.

He's sure Black Lives Matter has some good members, Brown said, but he's seen some of them attempting to profit from his son's death.

"I call them thieves in the night," he said.

Dr. Dan Rose, associate professor of sociology at Chattanooga State, said he hopes Brown's visit generates more empathy from people who hear firsthand from someone who has lost a child.

"We need to look at our priorities in Chattanooga and American cities," Rose said.

Brown said he now tries to give back to his community by hosting lock-ins for youth, providing youth programs, assisting people with rent and bill payments and hosting retreats for men who grieve the loss of their children.

"I want everybody to close your eyes just for a second, and just imagine someone you love, your son or your daughter, that you will never see them again. Imagine not being able to kiss them, touch them, hear them, smell them, not even able to just get in a car with them and hear them say, 'I love you, Dad' or 'I love you, Mom.' That's my reality," he said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-747-6431.

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