Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, Missouri, hosted a service yesterday honoring Michael Brown, and the audience on hand received something unexpected: an apology.
Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who spoke at the service while in his uniform, told congregants, “My heart goes out to you, and I say that I’m sorry. And I wear this uniform, and I should stand up here and say that I’m sorry.”
But that’s not all he said.
Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, an African-American resident of Ferguson who has become a local hero for supporters wanting to rally peacefully in the streets, honored the slain teen and thanked him for the movement he inspired.“This is my neighborhood. You are my family. You are my friends. And I am you,” Johnson said, bringing the more than 1,300 people convened at Greater Grace Church to their feet in applause.“When this is over – I’m gonna go to my son’s room, my black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, who’s got tattoos on his arms … But that’s my baby,” Johnson said to more cheers.
Reflecting on what’s to come, Johnson added that Brown’s death will lead to changes for the better. “We need to pray,” the captain said. “We need to thank Michael for his life. And we need to thank him for the change that he is going to make.”
Johnson’s remarks were well received – he was frequently interrupted by applause – and no doubt helped position the Missouri Highway Patrol chief as an important voice in the community. That said, there’s only so much a speech can do in the midst of a crisis like this one, and his address did not prevent the escalating violence in the community last night.
If you missed the speech, it’s available in its entirety below: