FERGUSON, Mo. — The civil-rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 16-year-old shot to death in Sanford, Fla., in 2012., told a rally here on Sunday that police are trying to assassinate the character of Michael Brown, the young man shot dead by police more than a week ago.
"They tried it with Trayvon, and now they are trying it with Michael," Benjamin Crump said.
"We know that this was an execution," he said, noting that at the time of his death, witnesses say Brown had his hands raised above his head. "This means 'Surrender! Don't shoot!' And the most hardened criminals in history, when they put their hands up, we didn't execute them."
Sunday's rally at Greater Grace Church came hours after an overnight curfew ended.
Martin Luther King III said the local prosecutor looking into the shooting should recuse himself from case. "Justice perhaps won't come without an independent prosecutor," he said.
Rev. Al Sharpton told the crowd that it was despicable for police to release a robbery report naming the 18-year-old Brown as a suspect before his mother had buried her son. Sharpton said protests would continue.
"We are not going to shut up," he said. "We are going to come together and have a real peace."
He told protesters not to loot in Michael's name. "There's a difference between an activist and a thug," Sharpton aid.
Anger has grown after police on Friday released a surveillance video purporting to show Brown stealing from a convenience store and roughing up its clerk a few minutes before the confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson.
Ron Johnson, the Missouri Highway Patrol captain at the head of security here, told the rally that protesters "need to pray, we need to thank Mike for his life, we need to thank him for the change that he is going to make."
Johnson told an animated crowd that Brown's violent death at the hands of police on Aug. 9 "is going to make it for our sons so that they can be better black men. He's going to make it better for our daughters so they can be better black women, better for me so I can be a better black father. And we know they're going to make our mamas even better than they are today."
Johnson, who is African-American and lives in nearby Florissant, told the crowd, "This is my neighborhood. You are my family, you are my friends and I am you. And I will stand and protect you. I will protect your right to protest."
He said that when the protests are over, "I'm going to go in my son's room — my black son, who wears his pants sagging, wears his head cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms — but that's my baby." The crowd cheered loudly.
Donations for Brown's family poured in at the rally. Speakers announced that all three of Brown's siblings would receive full college scholarships and Judge Greg Mathis announced that he would give the family $10,000. Sharpton said his group would pay for Brown's funeral. He also encouraged others to give the family money. At the event, donors filled several large baskets with cash. Sharpton told the crowd the money would go directly to the family.
He also announced on Sunday that a class action lawsuit would soon be filed on behalf of Ferguson protestors who were tear-gassed while demonstrating and others who were injured. Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice, as well as members of the New Black Panther Party, have said for several days that they would file the lawsuit because they believe protesters' civil rights had been violated.
Cedric Evans, 29, Brown's cousin said after the rally that the event was uplifting for members of Brown's family. Throughout the service he sat solemnly watching as speaker after speaker voiced their concerns about someone he had known personally.
"Instead of this being just another murder in St. Louis, it is looking better for our side," he said.
Evans said he planned to gather with other members of Brown's family and protest.