About 125 people attended a solemn service Sunday on the Capitol Campus in Olympia to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown — a death that fueled a national protest movement against racial bias by the police.
The event, “Commemorating the Life of Michael Brown, and Remembering Ferguson,” was organized by several South Sound faith leaders, members of the YWCA of Olympia and local organizers.
During the service, the names of more than 300 people of color who were killed by police in the United States during the past year were read out loud.
The first two names were of two men who are still alive, but their stories have become an inspiration for local community action: Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson, who were shot by an Olympia police officer on May 21.
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“Particularly we are thinking about our local situation, and everything going on with that,” said Tammy Stampfli, a pastor with the United Churches of Olympia.
During the event, Merrill Williams with a group called Full Circle United said she has read stories about Brown’s life, saying he had shoplifted and smoked marijuana.
“No person is angelic, least of all teenagers,” Williams said.
The recent South Puget Sound Community College graduate told her own story about growing up in the Brooklyn projects and being addicted to crack for 24 years.
“In other words, I am a human being,” she said.
Williams said she’s turned her life around but that Brown didn’t have that chance.
“When did shoplifting become an avenue for you to be shot?” Williams said. “... We expect — no, we demand — the system to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.”
The event included a 4 1/2-minute moment of silence, which was symbolic of the 4 1/2 hours that Brown’s body was left in the street on Aug. 9, 2014.
Shana Barehand of Tumwater told the crowd that she worries for her son’s life because of his brown skin.
“I believe that we can be the change, and that diversity is the answer,” she said.