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NAACP hosts rally for Michael Brown on Thursday outside Boone County Courthouse

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 | 3:11 p.m. CDT; updated 5:09 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 20, 2014

COLUMBIA — After nearly two weeks of unrest in Ferguson, the local chapter of the NAACP will be holding a rally Thursday to bring Columbia into what has quickly become a national dialogue. 

The rally for Michael Brown will be from 6 to 8 p.m. outside the Boone County Courthouse. It will include speakers, hymns from the civil rights movement and prayer from local ministers.

Mary Ratliff, president of the Missouri and local NAACP, said she wanted to host a local event because the conversations she's had with other members of the community on the shooting have generally been confined to private discussions.

Ratliff decided to turn that private conversation into a public one.

"They need to stop being silent," Ratliff said. "All those young people didn't just talk the talk during civil rights days. They actually got involved and helped make the difference, and that's what we need to happen now."

The event's purpose is largely to call for transparency of the investigation and the arrest of St. Louis County police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown at least six times, according to reports, though witness accounts and police reports vary on the details.

Speakers at the rally outside the Boone County Courthouse will include MU student Storm Ervin, death penalty opponent Jeff Stack, attorney Dan Viets and Travis James, vice president of the NAACP's state youth and college division.

"Based on what we've heard, it appears that a great injustice has been done," Ratliff said. "The officer who shot Mike should be arrested, even indicted. Enough probable cause is there that he should have been indicted long before now."

The rally is also part of a nationwide stand to show support for the Brown family. Ratliff said she's talked to family members, paying her respects.

"We know that the mother of the family is hurting, and every black mother is Michael Brown's mother," Ratliff said. "This is a problem for the country, and the country has been enraged because another African-American has been killed. We are all Michael Brown."

Ratliff noted similar trends in Ferguson to those in Boone County, citing a Missouri Attorney General's report demonstrating an increase in racial profiling over the past 14 years.

Ratliff referred to the Missouri Attorney General vehicle stops reports for both the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff's Department. Rates at which members of the black population have been pulled over have risen over the past 14 years.

Ratliff also said she hoped that the rally will call for St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, who began presenting evidence to the grand jury on Wednesday, to step aside in favor of a special prosecutor.

"We feel like the attorney does not have a good reputation with the residents," Ratliff said.

The federal investigation will be supervised by Attorney General Eric Holder who arrived in Ferguson on Wednesday.

The investigation began after Brown was shot Aug. 9. Since then, peaceful protests with chants of "hands up, don't shoot" and "no justice, no peace" have turned violent with an increased police presence and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard to restore order on Monday. At least 139 were arrested between Saturday night and Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Demonstrations have spread around the country, including Columbia. MU students previously hosted a vigil at Speakers Circle and #DontShoot photo challenge  to commemorate Brown's death and subsequent protests.


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