At a three-hour service Friday, grieving residents were able to pay their respects to 37-year-old Alton Sterling, whose July 5th shooting outside a convenience store began a tumultuous week in race relations. Gary Chambers, master of ceremonies for the funeral, said at the beginning that the event at Southern University “If you want to protest, please leave now.”
A steady line of mourners filed past Sterling’s casket, which was adorned with music notes and a smiling photo of the man. The crowd consisted of friends, family, activists and two senior advisers to President Barack Obama.
One mourner wore a T-shirt that said “No Justice, No Peace” and another carried a poster board sign saying: “Black America I’m Sorry!!” Rev. Jesse Jackson as well as close family members spoke about Sterling, his death and the police treatment of African-Americans.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said “Wrong must be corrected and the wrong must be held accountable. We have got to stop going from funeral to funeral.” Sharpton called for more accountability from police officers who kill African-Americans and reeled off a list of high-profile police shootings that have deeply affected the black community: “We have an inferior judicial system that does not protect all of its citizens equally.”
Sterling leaves behind five children, including his 15-year-old son, Cameron, who was seen on the televised town hall with Obama on Thursday. One of the biggest rounds of applause from the crowd of a couple thousand people came for Abdullah Muflahi, who owns the Triple S. where Sterling was shot, Muflahi said Sterling wasn’t just a man who sold CDs in front of his store.
Muflahi said “He showed me a lot of love. He looked out for me. He was friendly. He was welcoming. He was truly the meaning of southern hospitality. We’re going to have an empty spot in front of the store.”
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