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In George Floyd’s death, Michael Brown Sr. sees history repeat itself

In 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Like George Floyd, his death led to weeks of protests and some violent clashes with law enforcement, and gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier this month, Yamiche Alcindor spoke with Brown’

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This week, as we mark one year since the murder of George Floyd, we look back to another police killing that changed the country.

    Nearly seven years ago, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His death led to weeks of protests and sometimes violent clashes with law enforcement and gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Earlier this month, Yamiche Alcindor spoke with Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., about what has changed since his son's killing and George Floyd's murder.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thank you so much for sitting down with us and talking.

    It's been nearly seven years since your son was killed. I wonder how you're doing, how you have navigated this time.

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    Every day is still different.

    Sadly, this thing with community and police is still continuing. So, it definitely does bring back up old feelings, open wounds, brings that anger, that madness or whatever back.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So much has changed and so much hasn't changed since the death of your son.

    I wonder if you can talk to me a bit about where you were when you learned about George Floyd, if you saw the video, and what that moment was like for you as a Black man and as a father who had lost his son.

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    I was at home when it was going live on the Internet. We all went to Minnesota to support and be down there on the ground roots with the rest of the community.

    The energy reminded me of 2014. It was so much anger, pain. I met with the family, gave them words of encouragement. And I told them, any time you want to reach out, just reach out. My phone will be on, because this is something that's going to be hurting for years to come. And you want to try to understand, why did this happen to your family?

    So, it's different stages with the trauma. You got the denial, you got the anger, you got to trying to get past, and then you got coping.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Where are you in your in your stages?

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    Definitely not at the point of forgiveness. I would say anger/coping. But I'm in a space where I don't have to — I'm not around negativity to open old flames back up.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Where were you when Derek Chauvin was found guilty? And what went through your mind when you heard that that family was going to get justice?

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    I was riding in the car, and I heard it over the radio. And right then, I was happy for the family.

    But I know it's not satisfying for that family, because they still lost their loved one. People that lost that type of way, we're not satisfied. Until we start to change the policies in different cities, some people will get justice, some people won't.

    So that's what we're working on, changing some things here in Missouri, so another family won't have to go through this. I still got little, small children. I don't want them to go through nothing like that. I don't even think I'd be able to take that again.

    So it's all about the community and families, trying to make better things for families to be able to walk down the street, drive their car without being harassed or killed.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thinking about your son, a teenager walking down the street, some people see that as a teenager walking down the street. Some people see that as someone who's threatening.

    We know that, in this country, Black men in particular, Black people in particular have been criminalized. How does that change?

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    Definitely profiling. Profiling has to stop.

    You have 16-to-18-year-olds that look like grown men from the back. So I think interacting with teenagers should be in a different tone, frame, whatever you want to call it, especially when they turn around and you see this baby face.

    There's no threat. You know, it's procedures that you can do. What's your parents' number? Where you going? Follow them home. Talk to a parent. It shouldn't have to end in death.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Do you think that what happened to your son, it ends up leading to the conviction of this officer in the murder of George Floyd? Do you think that momentum and where our country is played into that?

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    Of course. That's what I think.

    Some people might not, but that's what I think, yes. He opened up a lot of doors for a lot of families, so even the bodycam. Mike started that especially here in Saint Louis. It was other places that was half of the police force had them, and not all. But now they're almost everywhere.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    What perspective could you share now that maybe you couldn't share in 2014? What perspective have the last seven years given you as you think about where our nation is now with the death of George Floyd and the death of your son?

  • Michael Brown Sr.:

    Well, I just say, if we don't unify, we're going to die. I don't care what color we is. You have white allies. You have all types of people to understand what's wrong.

    And if you support what you know is wrong, you the problem too. This — the only way this world can be better if we start understanding what the problem is. All of us is not the enemy. But we have been traumatized for so many years to where some people, they don't know which way to go.

    So we have to have different conversations, so we can try to work on doing something good or better for our community.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Undoubtedly, there will be more of those conversations happening this week, and particularly tomorrow, on the anniversary of George Floyd's death.

    Members of the Floyd family will meet privately tomorrow with President Biden at the White House.

    We will have much more on all of this tomorrow night.

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