CLEVELAND-- Members of the community held a vigil in solidarity with Michael Brown, his family, and the residents of Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday.
Organizers with the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ called for the peaceful gathering at their downtown headquarters after Brown’s family asked people to remain calm on the day of his funeral.
“We have invited the community to join arms with us,” said Waltrina Middleton at the beginning of the service honoring the 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer.
“All of us with open hearts today stand in solidarity,” said Rev. Jim Moos. He helped lead the service inside the building before the crowd eventually walked outside to Prospect Avenue on what some called, “Hands Up, Walk Out Monday."
“Arise oh Lord, lift up your hands! Hands up, don’t shoot,” they chanted.
“I think it’s tragic, unfortunate, heartbreaking – as far as Michael Brown losing his life,” said Shaena Ragin, who participated in the vigil.
Organizers said the vigil was also about addressing racism, poverty and a culture of violence in Ferguson and elsewhere in the country, including Cleveland.
“It has to be brought to light but there has to be a better way and so ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ might be a way of getting the attention, but certainly not destroying the community,” said participant, Phyllis Richards.
“People need a place to take their grief, take their anger, to take that into a place that can be constructive, that can help heal our communities a little bit,” said Rev. Christina Kukuk from the United Church of Christ.
While Michael Brown’s death was the motivator for the vigil, those gathering also called out the names of other shooting victims, including Trayvon Martin from Florida and Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams; Russell and Williams both died during a police chase and shooting in Cleveland.
Organizers hope Monday’s vigil in Cleveland – and similar ones in other cities – will raise awareness and help parents speak to their kids about the shooting.