LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Six years after a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed his son, Michael Brown Sr. wavered on whether to spend the anniversary of his boy's death in another American city rocked by the loss of a Black person at the hands of police.
But on Saturday, standing in front of a vibrant, two-story mural of Breonna Taylor in Louisville's West End, Brown said he was glad he came. He, like countless others across the country, wants to see justice for Taylor's family, Brown said.
“I can only imagine what the family goes through every day when they wake up not seeing those smiles. No talk. No hugs," said Brown, whose 18-year-old son, Michael Brown Jr., died Aug. 9, 2014.
"Those things will definitely kill you (from the inside) out," he said. "We might look OK in the face, but we dying in the inside.”
The death of his son, who was shot by a white officer, set off months of protests in Ferguson and became a pivotal moment in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Brown's visit to Kentucky came amid continuing unrest over the death of Taylor, an unarmed Black woman who was fatally shot by police at her southern Louisville apartment in March.
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Saturday's rally took place at 11th and West Main streets, in front of a mural dedicated to Black people killed by police, including Taylor and George Floyd, who was killed in May by officers in Minneapolis.
The rally, which drew about 200 people, was organized by Until Freedom, a New York-based social justice organization.
Last month, the group organized a sit-in on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's front lawn — an action that led to the arrests of 87 people. Cameron, a Republican elected to state office in November, became responsible for investigating Taylor's case after the Jefferson County commonwealth's attorney recused himself from reviewing it in May.
Speakers on Saturday encouraged Louisvillians to keep fighting for justice for Black residents who have died at the hands of police, including Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician.
Linda Sarsour, co-founder of Until Freedom, said she knows local protesters are tired from more than 70 straight days of marches and demonstrations calling for justice for Taylor.
“And we want you to know that we are here to alleviate any of that exhaustion,” she told the crowd. “We are here to inject whatever energy you need so the whole world turns their eyes to Louisville. You are the epicenter and the ground zero for the conversation on racial justice and police brutality. This is going to be a story in the history books and we are here to make history with you.”
Members of Until Freedom plan to stay in Louisville until the officers responsible for fatally shooting Taylor are arrested and charged in her death, Sarsour said. While they’re here, she said the group will participate in community services, hosting free farmers markets and school supply drives.
The Rev. Stephen Green, also with Until Freedom, said the organization wasn’t taking up residency in Kentucky for social media likes or shares but to support and build on the weeks of grassroots activism for Taylor.
Moving forward, the group will take action — or "disruption" — on Tuesdays, Green said.
“We have come to disrupt the status quo,” said Green, calling the upcoming events "Good Trouble Tuesdays," a nod to John Lewis, the late congressman and civil rights icon who encouraged Americans to make "good trouble" in the name of racial justice.
Brown, dressed Saturday in a "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt, said he continues to deal with the lingering trauma of his son's death. As a crowd converged at the shooting scene in 2014, Brown Jr.'s bloodied body remained on the Ferguson street for hours.
Later that year, a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson, the former officer who shot and killed Brown Jr.
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Missouri law enforcement officials announced last month they would not reopen the case against Wilson.
Until Freedom co-founder Tamika Mallory said the global protests against police brutality and systemic racism that have sprung up in response to the deaths of Taylor and Floyd are “not just a moment in time.”
“It is a continuation of a journey that our ancestors have been on here, in this country, for over 400 years,” she said. “We don't get to sit home and complain while watching our TVs or looking at our cellphones. We must be actively engaged in the movement, fighting for Black lives. We must be on the ground, putting boots to the pavement showing up on behalf of future generation.”
When people look back on those involved in this movement, Mallory said, “we want them to look at this generation and say that we were a mighty group. We were a mighty and intelligent and strategic and focused and courageous group of people who would not back down.”
Follow Bailey Loosemore, Mandy McLaren and Matthew Glowicki on Twitter: @bloosemore, @mandy_mclaren and @mattglo.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: 6 years after Michael Brown's death, dad attends Breonna Taylor rally