Ogden churches hold vigil for man killed by Missouri police

Friday , August 15, 2014 - 11:17 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — The Rev. Shelley Page threw up her hands as if in surrender.  

“This is the position Michael Brown was in when he was shot in cold blood in broad daylight,” said Page, who heads the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden. “This is the ’I’m unarmed, I’m safe’ (symbol), the universal ’don’t shoot me.’ ” 

Page and about two dozen members of various Ogden church congregations gathered downtown Thursday to hold a vigil for Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown’s killing set off a series of riots in the St. Louis suburb of about 20,000; the chaotic protests that ensued and the heavy police response have garnered national attention. 

Ferguson residents say they are outraged at the militarized response of police and have documented officers using armored vehicles, riot gear and dogs as the means for crowd control. The local police chief there, Jon Belmar, told the Associated Press his officers used “an incredible amount of restraint” as they were shot at and assaulted and as two dozen of their police cars were destroyed. The Missouri Highway Patrol seized control of the suburb on Thursday, replacing local police.

Page said her group was acting in sync with thousands of others joining in a simultaneous national moment of silence, held Thursday at 5:20 p.m. Mountain time. The movement began with the hashtag #NMOS14 on Twitter and was primarily organized on social media this week.  

“(We’re here) to stand in solidarity for people around the nation and the world with those who have fallen to police violence,” Page told the Standard-Examiner at the vigil on the northwest corner of 25th Street and Washington Boulevard.

Vigil-goers held up their hands in the surrender position for the most part of 30 minutes, attracting several honks and waves from passers-by. They also sang the iconic Civil Rights movement anthem “We Shall Overcome” and joined in a prayer circle. 

“This was a fast-moving, organic demonstration today,” Page said. “One would hope we are seeing a tipping point for raising awareness in this nation. ... Police brutality seems to be on the rise nationwide.”

The various demonstrators each wore a red armband of some kind to honor innocent lives lost in police-involved conflicts. 

The Rev. Gage Church, pastor of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Ogden, also attended Thursday’s moment of silence, and clarified it was a way to honor Brown and others who have suffered, more so than a protest. He said the police escalation in Ferguson has alarmed Americans who are paying attention.

“It’s one in the line of many shootings of unarmed people,” Church said, specifically mentioning  “I think what pushed this one over the edge was the over-the-top response by the authorities in that town.”

Police in Ferguson have forgotten to be accountable to those whom they have a duty to serve, according to Church.

“Who they’re protecting, I don’t know,” he said. “Perhaps police are too militarized. Perhaps more training can be done so other alternatives can be considered before violence.”

Members of the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ogden also attended the silent vigil. Church said the event was intended as a display of unity with other Americans who have suffered at the hands of rogue police — regardless of race, religion or area of the country. 

“It isn’t just a problem in big cities,” Church said. “And it isn’t just a race thing.”

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or blockhart@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart. Like his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/blockhartSE. 

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. 

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