Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown around this time of year, when the high summer sun in Missouri heats the pavement to temperatures that sear the skin. There are concerts, and at night the riverfront lights up with fireworks. Around this time, Lezley McSpadden’s mind usually turns to the logistics of honoring her late son, whom she called “Mike Mike.” Usually, she is planning an annual foundation gala to benefit mothers who have lost children to violence or preparing a visit to Brown’s grave site on the anniversary of his death, August 9.
But this summer brought with it a new climate, with protesters calling out the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and, still, Mike Brown. Seeing officers indicted, a police department disbanded, and decades-old laws overturned in other states, McSpadden, 40, can’t help but think that the moment has come for the officer who killed her son to face a reckoning too. After some time out of the spotlight, and another infuriating interaction with the legal system, McSpadden has returned to her public fight.
“I respect time,” she told me in late July. “And I just knew that there was no way that this person would get away with this, you know, this cold killing of my son in broad daylight in front of so many people.” Sitting in a bright room in the house where she lives with her husband and three children in Florissant, one town over from the St. Louis suburb Ferguson, she paused. “Time showed us otherwise.” Behind her was a bureau topped with artwork featuring her son. His oval face appeared in miniature next to hers on my screen. She wore her hair up in braids, horn-rimmed glasses, hoop earrings, a thin gold chain with a cross, and a red T-shirt that showed her son’s eyes silhouetted in black against her chest. “It hadn’t reached that time for us as people.” She gathered her thoughts. “Equality was still not present.”
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August 3 - 16, 2020