The rain that rolled through downtown Atlanta on Monday evening did nothing to dampen the spirits of the marchers who gathered at the CNN Center in memory of Missouri teen Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer.
Even as the first drops fell, the more than 1,000 marchers continued down Marietta Street, some chanting, “No justice, no peace,” while others proclaimed, “I am Mike Brown.”
By the time many of the marchers neared the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, they were in the middle of a full-on deluge, but they continued to march and chant.
“When it started raining and lightning and the crowd didn’t disperse, my energy level shot up,” said Kwame Thompson, an attorney in Atlanta and St. Louis. “It was a peaceful demonstration that was against police brutality and in support of Mike Brown and his family.”
Tensions have been high in Ferguson, which is northwest of St. Louis, since the shooting. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who declared a state of emergency in Ferguson, imposed a curfew Saturday which was lifted Monday, and the state’s National Guard has been deployed.
Nixon called out the Guard early Monday after a fresh spasm of violence Sunday night, perhaps the worst to strike Ferguson since Brown’s death.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer in the shooting was Darren Wilson, 28, who served two years on the force of a neighboring city and has been with the Ferguson police for four years. Jackson said Wilson, who is on paid administrative leave, has no record of disciplinary actions or complaints against him. He described Wilson as “a gentle, quiet man” who had been “an excellent officer.” His whereabouts are unknown.
Missouri State Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson was appointed by the governor on Thursday to take charge of security in Ferguson after local police used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters last week.
In Atlanta, Thompson was there as part of a group of St. Louis natives who wanted to support the local gathering.
“These kinds of atrocities happen all of the time in St. Louis County,” which is where the shooting occurred, he said. “We’ve been fighting these injustices for some time, and we felt it was important to lend out support to this effort.”
Before the mile-long march around Centennial Olympic Park, the growing crowd of people listened to a handful of speakers.
One of the organizers told the group to educate themselves on other instances in history that are similar to the Brown shooting.
“There are hundreds of names that should be etched into your brain,” Aurielle Lucier told the group. “We’ve got some changes to make in America.”
Demonstrations have been occurring across the country since an unarmed Brown, 18, who is African-American, was killed by a white police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Many have taken to social media to post their opinions in words and photos.
“There is a bubbling up of this new racism in this post-racial America,” college student Tommy DiMassimo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. DiMassimo attends college in Dayton, Ohio, but returned to his Atlanta hometown with two friends to attend Monday’s rally.
The three men said they made the trip because “it was worth it,” DiMassimo said.
That is the spirit in which Lucier said the youth-led movement began. She said someone has to decide the time has come to do something. The march was led by a group called #itsbiggerthanyou, which is supported and sponsored by Atlanta Word Works, Lucier said.
“People are asking, ‘Where are the youth?’ ” she told the crowd. “We are right here, and we are ready to do something. We are ready to act.”