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Michael Brown's mother, second from left speaking at Peace Fest yesterday. AP Photo/Alex Sanz

Mourners throng church in St. Louis for funeral of slain teen Michael Brown

Brown’s father has called for protests to be halted for the day.

THE FUNERAL SERVICE FOR 18-year-old Michael Brown shot dead by police officer in Ferguson, Missouri have has begun in St. Louis.

Brown’s great uncle, pastor Charles Ewing, is to deliver the eulogy at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church with Rev. Al Sharpton also expected to speak.

Brown’s killing exposed racial tension and failures of aggressive policing that manifested itself in protests and violence, propelling the small town into the international spotlight.

Ahead of the funeral, Brown’s father Michael Brown Sr. called for protests to be halted for the day and observe a “day of silence” so the family can grieve.

“We don’t want anything tomorrow to happen that might defile the name of Michael Brown,” Sharpton said as he stood next to Brown’s father yesterday. “This is not about our rage tomorrow. It’s about the legacy and memory of his son.”

Hundreds of people have lined up in sweltering heat to pay their respects to Brown  with a steady stream of people filing into the church.

President Barack Obama has also sent three three White House aides to the church in St. Louis with other notable attendees including Martin Luther King III, the Rev Jesse Jackson, families of Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell, director Spike Lee and musicians Sean Combs and Snoop Lion.

The funeral service is being carried live by several US networks and being streamed online by a variety of outlets.

WPDE NewsChannel 15 / YouTube

More than an hour before Brown’s funeral was to begin, a steady stream of people started filing into the church. Among them was Will Acklin, a black man from Little Rock, Arkansas.

“It’s important in that as a child I was pushed by police, mistreated by police, cursed by police, and I was a good kid,” said Acklin, who is 63. “I was an honor student. When I heard this, I felt compelled to come here and show my respects.”

Angela Pierre, a machine operator who once lived in Ferguson, where the shooting happened, said she hopes the funeral helps turn a page and eases tensions. Most important, though, she hopes it provides healing for Brown’s family.

“I really wanted to just be here today to pray for the family and pray for peace,” said Pierre. “When all of this dies down, there still a mother, father and a family who’s lost someone. Sometimes a lot of the unrest takes away from that.”

The church’s sanctuary, which seats about 2,500, was filling quickly. Two poster-sized photos of Brown were near the casket, along with another photo of him as a small child.

Brown’s father has asked protesters to take a break Monday and observe a “day of silence” so the family can grieve.

“Tomorrow all I want is peace,” he told hundreds of people Sunday in St. Louis’ largest city park during brief remarks at a festival that promotes peace over violence. “That’s all I ask.”

Michael Brown, Sr. The crowd at Peace Fest responds to a speech by Michael Brown. AP Photo / Bill Boyce AP Photo / Bill Boyce / Bill Boyce

Early Monday morning, Brown’s request appeared to be honoured. At the Ferguson Police Department, where a small but steady group of protesters have stood vigil for two weeks, a handmade sign announced a “break for funeral.” The West Florissant Avenue commercial corridor was also devoid of protesters, whose ranks have typically swelled as days turned to nights.

Brown was unarmed when he was shot on 9 August by officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and a federal investigation is also underway.

Monday also marks the first day back at school for students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Classes were scheduled to begin 14 August but postponed due to safety concerns.

School personnel have received training in how to deal with students who may be experiencing stress related to the shooting and its aftermath.

“I’m excited,” said Marcus Baker, a junior at McCluer South-Berkeley High School. “We’re ready to move forward. But we’re still going to remember him.”

- With reporting from Rónán Duffy 

Explainer: What is happening in Ferguson, Missouri? >

Read: National Guard leave town as Ferguson tensions calm >

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