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Vigil at Arch against police brutality draws Michael Brown's family and hundreds others

Vigil at Arch against police brutality draws Michael Brown's family and hundreds others

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ST. LOUIS • Michael Brown's mother and family joined hundreds of others under the Arch Thursday at a peaceful vigil against police brutality.

The vigil, held in about 90 cities across the country at the same time, was sparked by last weekend's shooting by a police officer of Brown, an unarmed teenager.

Strangers walked up to Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, and other family members to offer condolences and hugs, while the family thanked people for supporting them.

After the vigil, a family spokesman talked to reporters about their heartbreak, their disappointment with Ferguson police and their hopes that no more looting or violence would occur.

Eric Davis, a first cousin of Michael Brown who spoke on behalf of the family, said the family would not be satisfied until “justice is served for Michael” and “the officer who did this is prosecuted by the law. I want Michael's story to be told in court.”

“There's a murdering cop out on the streets,” Davis also said.

Davis said his cousin was not violent.

"Michael was a fun and gentle soul,” he said, adding that Brown's bright future was cut short.

“He was going to be a heating and cooling engineer. He could take anything apart and put it together.”

The family was among hundreds of people who gathered on the green between the Old Courthouse and the Arch. The main purpose was to show support against excessive force by police and against what one speaker, Alicia Kemp, called “senseless” killings.

The vigil began with a moment of silence at 6:20 p.m. The event was called National Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Brutality.

The idea to hold the vigils began in New York with a woman after she had heard about Brown. It's dedicated to Brown and others around the country who have been harmed or killed in police-involved incidents.

Chloe Angelique Ward, 21, the main organizer in St. Louis, sent out notice of the event on Twitter and Facebook. The crowd was racially and ethnically diverse. They came from all over the metro area. Ward said the vigil would give people a chance to mourn.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson was among those who attended and walked around greeting people.

At the vigil, the crowd chanted "Hands Up! Don't Shoot" - and many people wore t-shirts saying “Don't Shoot” as well as red arm bands to show solidarity. 

Ward said that she wanted people to wear red arm bands to show that people of all races and religions are “cut from the same cloth.”

“Police brutality is everybody's problem,” she said.

Davis said the family is hopeful the situation in Ferguson will improve with the appointment of an African-American officer with the Missouri Highway Patrol to head up law enforcement. Davis said many more black officers were needed.

Davis also had a word for protesters in Ferguson: “We appreciate all the support – but we do not want any looting or violence.”

Among those at the vigil was Jessica Taggart, 27, of St. Louis, who said that she knew victims of violence.

“We depend on police to get our problems solved not to start them,” Taggart said.

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Margaret S. Gillerman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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