Ole Miss removes state flag from campus

— The University of Mississippi has removed the state flag from campus, according to a university statement issued Monday.

The move comes after student senators voted 33-15 with one abstention last week to ask the school administration to furl the banner, which includes the Confederate battle emblem in its upper left corner.

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Where the Confederate flag is still flown

Despite the University of Mississippi’s removal of the state flag from the campus, the Confederate battle flag can still be found displayed across the country.

“University of Mississippi Police Department officers lowered and furled the state flag in a Lyceum Circle ceremony as the campus opened Monday morning,” a school statement said. “The flag will be preserved in the University Archives along with resolutions from students, faculty and staff calling for its removal.”

Like many students and observers, Buka Okoye, president of the school’s NAACP chapter, had the impression that the school wouldn’t act on the student senators’ vote until a new chancellor was appointed. The NAACP was in the process of organizing a march in two weeks to pressure the university administration to take down the flag immediately. He was “shocked” to learn the school had removed the banner Monday, he said.

“It was huge that the university came on the right side,” he said. “That was huge for me. It really shows me how much the university has progressed.”

He is proud that his school has sent the message that it wants to “distance itself from Confederate iconography in general,” and while it certainly doesn’t mean the end of racism, it’s another step in taking down the structures that support racism, he said.

The next step for him and the NAACP chapter is to pressure the university to do something about the obelisk honoring “Confederate dead” that is located in the area of campus known as The Circle, where the state flag flew. The monument has been there since 1906.

Elation, disappointment

Allen Coon, a student senator and president of the College Democrats who was at the forefront of the fight to take down the flag, told CNN he, too, was surprised and elated by the decision.

“They didn’t announce anything. They did it early this morning,” he said. “The leadership acted swiftly, and despite the opposition from the governor, who two days ago said college students act emotionally, they took it down. It’s exciting.”

Another student senator, Andrew Soper, who organized a petition that drew more than 1,800 signatures (at least 1,500 of which came on the day of the vote or after the vote) urging Ole Miss to keep the flag on campus, said he was disappointed to see the flag taken down.

“I think it’s the wrong move. They should have done it through the state of Mississippi. They didn’t do it the right way,” he said.

‘A flag that speaks to who we are’

Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks, who called for the state to change its flag in June, applauded the civility with which student senators came to their decision, saying, “Their respect for each other, despite genuine differences of opinion, was an inspiration to us all.”

“I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued,” he said.”Our state needs a flag that speaks to who we are. It should represent the wonderful attributes about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us.”

Confederate tributes have come under increased scrutiny in the South since the killings of nine African-Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. Shooter Dylann Roof apparently revered the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.

In that state, the Confederate banner that flew on the Capitol grounds in Columbia was taken down on July 10, less than a month after the shootings.

Many Mississippi cities furl the flag; some keep it flying

The vote by the Ole Miss student senators follows a decision by aldermen in Oxford, where Ole Miss is located, to remove the flag from city property in August. That was around the same time actor Morgan Freeman, author John Grisham, musician Jimmy Buffett and others signed a letter calling on the state to come up with a new flag.

Other Mississippi cities — including Macon, Columbus, Grenada, Magnolia, Hattiesburg, Clarksdale, Starkville, Yazoo City and Greenwood — have voted or issued executive orders to remove the state flag from city property since the Charleston shooting. (Conversely, the cities of Petal and Gautier have voted since the massacre to keep the flag flying.)

The City Council in the state capital, Jackson, which hasn’t flown the state flag on city property in more than a decade, voted in July to urge the state to create a new flag, CNN affiliate WAPT reported.

Also taking action since Charleston were Leflore County, which took down the flag this summer, and the Gulf Coast Business Council and Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, both of which said they’d endorse a new flag without the Confederate canton in the corner.

The Ole Miss vote is also in line with the stances of three other public state universities that don’t fly the flag on their campuses: Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Alcorn State University.

Mississippi State University’s Faculty Senate voted before a 2001 statewide referendum to support efforts to change the state flag. Delta State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, too, have issued statements calling on the state to redesign the banner.

The Mississippi University for Women is the only state university that has not issued a statement or removed the flag, but an article last month in the school’s weekly newspaper reported that faculty and school leaders are discussing the matter.

The issue of changing the flag was last brought before the state’s voters 14 years ago, when Mississippians chose, by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, to leave it as is.

CNN’s Nick Valencia and Devon M. Sayers contributed to this report.

Freddie Gray: Trial dates set for officers

— The first trial, that of Officer William Porter, is scheduled to start on November 30; the last officer’s trial in March.

Porter had previously been expected to go on trial in October. His defense pushed for a later date after prosecutors reportedly turned over additional material.

It’s unclear what that material entails because Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams has ordered that the defendants’ statements not be made public.

However, The Baltimore Sun reported that it was granted exclusive access to the police department’s investigation, which shows Porter allegedly told Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van in which Gray was transported after his arrest, that the police booking facility would not process Gray because of his medical condition.

Citing investigators who reviewed the officers’ statements as part of the departmental probe, the newspaper reported that Porter told investigators that he and other officers weren’t sure whether Gray was faking his injuries or being uncooperative.

Porter was the only officer not attending Tuesday’s hearing.

If the account is true, Porter’s testimony will shed light on a looming question in the case: Why wasn’t Gray taken to a hospital immediately after he requested medical attention and his inhaler following his arrest?

According to then-Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, officers took Gray into custody at 8:40 a.m. on April 12. At 8:54 a.m., the officers stopped the van to place more restraints on Gray. A surveillance video captured footage of Gray conscious and speaking, Rodriguez said at the time.

At 9:24 a.m., police called an ambulance to pick up Gray at the Western District police station, Rodriguez said. At some point between 8:40 and 9:24, Gray asked for his inhaler and for medical attention, said Rodriguez, who has since resigned.

Gray, 25, was arrested on a weapons charge and suffered a severe spinal cord injury while being taken away in a police van, authorities have said. That injury led to his death seven days later.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has said Gray’s injury happened because he was handcuffed and shackled — but not buckled in — inside the police van.

The six officers were indicted in June. They have pleaded not guilty. They face the following charges:

• Goodson is charged with one count of second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence), misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. His trial is set to start January 6.

• Porter is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

• Officer Garrett Miller is charged with one count of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of reckless endangerment. His trial is set to start February 9.

• Officer Edward Nero is charged with one count of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of reckless endangerment. His trial is set to start February 22.

• Lt. Brian Rice is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of reckless endangerment. His trial is set to start March 9.

• Sgt. Alicia White is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. Her trial is set to start January 25.

Nero, Miller and Rice have asked that their reckless endangerment charges be tossed out because they are based solely on the allegation that they didn’t put a seat belt on Gray, which their attorneys contest is not a crime in Maryland.

Police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk has said three of the officers were on bikes and initially approached Gray, another made eye contact with Gray, another officer joined in the arrest after it was initiated and one drove the police van.

The order of the trials, which Judge Williams has ruled will be held separately, is important because, for one, Porter is expected to implicate other officers.

After the judge pushed Porter’s trial back to November, the defense for the other five officers asked to have those trials moved up. The judge denied that request and scheduled their clients consistently after Porter’s trial.

Prosecutors have written Williams to say that if officers who incriminate their fellow officers aren’t tried first, they might refuse to take the stand to avoid self-incrimination in their own trials, The Sun reported.

Gray’s death sparked outrage and demonstrations, some of which were plagued by arson, vandalism and looting despite the Gray family’s pleas for peace.

The political fallout has been significant: Not only did Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake remove Police Commissioner Anthony Batts from his post, Rawlings-Blake has announced she won’t seek re-election because a political campaign would take away from the city’s ability to cope with a police brutality scandal.

“The last thing I want is for every one of the decisions I make … to be questioned in the context of a political campaign,” she told reporters.

CNN’s Aaron Cooper and Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.


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Mayor vows to ‘get to the bottom of’ Freddie Gray’s death

— The autopsy hasn’t yielded many answers in Freddie Gray’s death — in fact, it’s prompted more questions — but Baltimore’s mayor pledged Tuesday to find out how the 25-year-old died from a spinal cord injury after being arrested a week prior.

VIDEO: Why did Baltimore police chase Freddie Gray?

“I’m going to make sure that as we get information that we can confirm, we’re going to put that information out in the public,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told CNN. “I want people to understand that I have no interest in hiding information, holding back information.”

She’s “frustrated,” she said, and among the questions she wants answered are: Why did police stop Gray in the first place? And why did arresting officers make the “mistake” of not immediately requesting medical attention when Gray asked for it?

“He was dragged a bit, but then you see him using his legs to get into the van, so he was able-bodied when he was in the van, and we know that when he was finally taken out of the van, he was unresponsive,” she said.

Challenged on the “able-bodied” remark — video shows Gray’s legs hanging listlessly as officers carry him by his shoulders — Rawlings-Blake said the medical examiner would make the final determination, but “we know he was fine getting into the van.”

“We will get to the bottom of it, and we will go where the facts lead us,” she said. “We will hold people accountable if we find there was wrongdoing.”

She further said she “absolutely believes we need to have an outside investigation,” especially when you consider Baltimore’s dark history of police misconduct.

Feds watching

In October, the Justice Department announced a collaborative reform initiative with the Baltimore Police Department to “include an assessment of policies, training, and operations as they relate to use of force and interactions with citizens.”

“When law enforcement misconduct is uncovered, the U.S. Department of Justice has a variety of tools available to respond. Responses to misconduct in law enforcement organizations fall along a continuum of intervention, with the specific response calibrated to address the particular circumstances of any given situation,” Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said in a statement at the time.

Rawlings-Blake requested the Justice Department take a look at the police department, The Baltimore Sun reported, saying that her request came on the heels of the newspaper’s report that the city had paid almost $6 million in judgments and settlements in 102 police misconduct civil suits since 2011. Overwhelmingly, The Sun reported, the people involved in the incidents that sparked the lawsuits were cleared of criminal charges.

Under Rawlings-Blake’s watch, she told CNN, the city has seen a decline in lawsuits, as well as reports of excessive force and discourtesy.

“I went to Annapolis for tougher laws to hold cops accountable. I’m fighting to bring back the trust between the police and the community,” she said.

‘Unrestrained and abusive’

Gray’s death is not bolstering that trust. Outrage was apparent at protests Monday, the day after he died.

Outside a Baltimore Police Department precinct, demonstrators co-opted slogans from other high-profile police shootings. They chanted — “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe!” — and carried signs saying, “No justice, no peace!” and “Black lives matter.”

Sharon Black, one of the rally’s organizers, said police misconduct is routine in Baltimore, and described Gray’s death as the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“The police act in an unrestrained and abusive way,” she said.

The autopsy said Gray died from a severe spinal cord injury, but Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez told reporters Monday that there is no indication how the injury occurred.

“I know that when Mr. Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk. He was upset. And when Mr. Gray was taken out of that van, he could not talk, and he could not breathe,” Rodriguez told reporters Monday.

A total of six officers were involved in the arrest, and all six have been suspended, but “none of the officers describe using any force against Mr. Gray,” Rodriguez said.

Police plan to conclude their investigation by Friday, May 1, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said. From there, the case will go to the state’s attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file charges.

What we know

According to documents obtained Monday, the April 12 incident began when Gray ran from police.

While the court documents allege that Baltimore Police Department Officer Garrett Miller arrested Gray after finding a switchblade in his pocket, the Gray family attorney called the allegation a “sideshow.” Gray was carrying a “pocket knife of legal size,” attorney William Murphy told CNN.

Police never saw the knife and chased Gray only after he took off running, the attorney said.

That seems substantiated by court documents, which said Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.”

“The officer noticed a knife clipped to the inside of (Gray’s) front right pants pocket. The defendant was arrested without force or incident,” the documents say. “The knife was recovered by this officer and found to be a spring assisted, one-hand-operated knife.”

The mayor has questioned whether police should have pursued Gray in the first place.

“It is not necessarily probable cause to chase someone. So, we still have questions,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Gray was in perfect health until police chased and tackled him, Murphy said. Less than an hour later, he was on his way to a trauma clinic with a spinal injury, where he fell into a coma.

Timeline and videos

Police, according to their own timeline, spotted Gray, gave chase, caught him, cuffed him and requested a paddy wagon in fewer than 4 minutes. The transport van left with Gray about 11 minutes after that, police said, and another 30 minutes passed before “units request paramedics to the Western District to transport the suspect to an area hospital.”

When cell phones began recording, Gray was already on the ground with three officers kneeling over him. He let out long, painful screams.

Officers had encountered him a minute earlier in an area where drug deals and crime are common, Deputy Police Commissioner Rodriguez said. Gray has an extensive criminal history, which appears to be mostly drug-related.

The officers called for a prisoner transport van. Cell phone video taken from two separate positions showed officers lifting Gray, whose hands were cuffed, up by his shoulders and dragging him to the back of the van.

Officers put more restraints on Gray inside the van, police said, while surveillance video recorded him conscious and talking. That was at 8:54 a.m.

At 9:24 a.m., police called an ambulance to pick Gray up. Murphy and angry residents of Baltimore want to know what happened in those 30 minutes in between.

Police say Gray requested medical attention, including an inhaler, and an ambulance later took him to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center.

“He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life,” Murphy said. “He clung to life for seven days.”

CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Ben Brumfield and Dana Ford contributed to this report.

Report: University of Oklahoma student apologizes for racist chant

— One of the two University of Oklahoma students expelled for their role in leading a racist chant has issued an apology, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same,” Parker Rice said in a statement printed by the newspaper.

Earlier Tuesday, Rice and another student were expelled over their alleged “leadership role” in a racist chant by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members, a decision that President David Boren says speaks to his school’s “zero tolerance” policy for such “threatening racist behavior.”

The decision comes two days after a video of frat members singing a racist song surfaced and hours after Boren told CNN he would suspend or expel the group’s ringleaders if at all possible.

“At this point, all I can do is be thoughtful and prayerful about my next steps, but I am also concerned about the fraternity friends still on campus. Apparently, they are feeling unsafe and some have been harassed by others. Hopefully, the university will protect them,” Rice reportedly said in his apology.

Already, the Greek letters sigma, alpha and epsilon have been removed from the frat house’s facade, the house will be closed as of midnight Tuesday and the university will board up the windows, following up on separate decisions by the university and the SAE national headquarters to shutter the Oklahoma chapter, Boren said.

Rice has not responded to multiple requests from CNN for comment.

“For me, this is a devastating lesson and I am seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again. My goal for the long-term is to be a man who has the heart and the courage to reject racism wherever I see or experience it in the future,” his apology read.

The video and its fallout

It was only a nine-second clip, but the backlash has been disastrous.

Party-bound students are seen on a bus clapping, pumping their fists and laughing as they chant, “There will never be a ni* SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a ni* SAE.”

After the campus organization, Unheard, and the school newspaper received the clip via anonymous messages and publicized it, the university and the fraternity’s national chapter acted swiftly to shutter the SAE house in Norman. Boren promised the university’s affiliation with the fraternity was done.

“I was not only shocked and disappointed but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video,” said Brad Cohen, the fraternity’s national president. “SAE is a diverse organization, and we have zero tolerance for racism or any bad behavior.”

Still, it could get worse. Oklahoma may not be the only source of embarrassment for the fraternity.

“Several other incidents with chapters or members have been brought to the attention of the headquarters staff and leaders, and each of those instances will be investigated for further action,” SAE said.

Title VI

It’s likely that if the university hadn’t acted, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division could have stepped in, said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance,” according to the Justice Department.

In this case, Arnwine said, the university likely found that fraternity members appear not only to have discriminated in their membership — and backed that discrimination with the threat of lynching — but they’ve also created a hostile environment.

The university, she said, “would’ve been compelled to do something to sanction and prevent this fraternity from engaging in racial discrimination.”

Arnwine said she wasn’t personally familiar with the school’s code of conduct, but she’d be surprised if the fraternity members’ actions weren’t in violation of university rules as well.

All of these reasons are grounds to sanction the fraternity and expel specific members who were involved in the singing, she said.

“A very important part of the lexicon of civil rights law is that you cannot create a hostile environment where you make it so people of different races or religions or women feel they can’t function at your institution without being subjected to unlawful discrimination,” she said.

The fallout

It’s unclear whether more students will be punished for the video, though Boren has promised the SAEs won’t return during his tenure if he can help it.

“The house will be closed, and as far as I’m concerned, they won’t be back,” he said at a Monday news conference.

He later told CNN, “There seems to be a culture in some of these fraternities, and it just has to be snuffed out.”

The decision to shutter the fraternity was an easy one for Boren, he said.

“If we’re ever going to snuff this out in the whole country, let alone on college campuses, we’re going to have to have zero tolerance, and we have to act right away,” said Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator. “This is not a place that wants racists or bigots on our campus or will tolerate it, so I think you have to send a very strong signal.”

Hundreds of students have protested the fraternity’s actions. Some of them arrived Monday morning on the campus’ North Oval with tape over their mouths, while the Oklahoma football team and Coach Bob Stoops marched arm in arm across campus instead of practicing.

The video infuriated Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker, who posted a profanity-laced video to social media.

“I was angry and I was outraged,” Striker said. “I apologize for the profanity, but I’m not apologizing about how I felt, because that’s how I felt in my heart.”

The fallout from the video also cost the football team a top recruit as offensive lineman Jean Delance said Monday he was de-committing from the Sooners and considering other teams.

‘That needed to happen’

Just as they protested loudly Monday, students on Tuesday were emphatic in expressing their relief and satisfaction that those allegedly responsible for leading the racist chant got their due.

Ross Johnson, a senior studying drama and broadcast media, called the video embarrassing and unacceptable as he worried that it may be seen as a reflection on him in the future.

“It sucks that I’m graduating in May. I feel I am probably going to have to explain this when I move,” he said. “For people who don’t know the University of Oklahoma, aren’t part of the student body, it’s a black eye that doesn’t really deserve to be there. It’s a small group of people who were acting foolishly.”

Another student, junior Jake Hewitt, applauded the university and the fraternity’s national president for their handling of the incident.

“I think it’s really good that the president is showing strong support for the students in the community here and saying, ‘This is not OK. It’s not going to be acceptable on our campus.’ It’s a good strong move, and I hope if they find out more, they do more,” he said.

Shortly after the expulsions were announced, senior Omar Humphrey, an African-American modern dance student, told CNN, “I think it’s rightfully so that they were (kicked out). … That needed to happen. It wasn’t fair; it wasn’t right. I am, as most of the student body — not just the African-American students — we’re all disheartened by the situation. It’s just really hard to think that this is still going on today, and I’m still deeply saddened.”

He is still a “proud student,” he said, and he understands that the fraternity members in question represent “just some microbial infestation that’s on campus. It’s on every campus, it’s on every campus. It’s unfortunate that we have to be seen in that light.”

Asked what he could say to the fraternity members if given the chance, Humphrey replied, “I pray for their humanity. I hope that they find maturity. … I wish them well. “

Nothing new

Unheard co-director Chelsea Davis said a racist mentality is not new to campus and is not confined to one fraternity.

“Unfortunately, it took them getting caught on video camera for this to happen, but this is definitely not something that is brand-new. It’s not something that’s only seen within this one organization,” she said.

Davis said the only acceptable response is to expel — not suspend, as that would send the wrong message — all the students involved.

“I was hurt that my fellow peers that I walk to class with every day, people that I see every day, could say such hateful things about me and my culture, about my friends, about my brothers and my sisters,” she said.

William Bruce James II, who was a member of the frat between 2001 and 2005, called the episode “devastating” — not just because he’s an Oklahoma alumnus but also because he’s African-American.

James told CNN that there was “never an inkling of this song or a whisper of anything like this” when he lived in the house. He said members of his pledge class “wouldn’t let that happen,” and if someone did dare to start such a chant they’d swiftly speak out and shut it down “whether I was there or not.”

Since the video surfaced, James said he’s heard from many of his former fraternity brothers. Like him, they’re offended and supportive of the decision to shutter the Norman chapter.

“I don’t know what happened to the culture of my home,” he said. “That is not my home. That is not SAE. They are not my brothers.”

CNN’s Brian Carberry, Chuck Johnston, Nick Valencia, John Couwels, Greg Botelho and Ed Payne contributed to this report.

NFL suspends Adrian Peterson without pay for season

— Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson learned Tuesday he will be suspended without pay for the rest of the 2014 NFL season, according to an NFL statement.

He will not be reinstated before April 15 because he violated the league’s personal conduct policy “in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May,” the league said.

Peterson has been on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list — which kept him off the field, with pay — since September after allegations he disciplined his 4-year-old son too harshly with a “switch” or thin stick. Initially charged with felony child abuse, Peterson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault this month.

“The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to Peterson. “Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement.”

His reinstatement also hinges on his rehabilitation, how he cares for his children and whether he commits further violations of the law or league policy, the letter stated.

Peterson will appeal the decision, the NFL Players Association said. The NFLPA further said the discipline imposed on Peterson is “inconsistent” and it will “demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal.”

A hearing will now be scheduled and Peterson — with the counsel of a lawyer and the NFL Players Association — can present evidence in support of his appeal. He will remain on the commissioner’s exempt list until the appeal has run its course.

Goodell has established a “baseline discipline” of six games without pay for first offenses of assault, battery or domestic violence, but he cited aggravating circumstances in Peterson’s case:

— The child was only 4, and while an adult can flee, fight back or call the police when experiencing abuse, those options aren’t available to a child. In this case, the child also suffered psychological trauma stemming from the “criminal physical abuse at the hands of the father”;

— “The repetitive use of a switch” is tantamount to a weapon in the hands of someone with the strength of a pro athlete;

— Peterson showed “no meaningful remorse” and publicly said he would not “eliminate whooping my kids.” He also sent text messages to the child’s mother defending his actions, which raises concerns that he didn’t understand the seriousness of his conduct and may do it again in the future.


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Michael Brown’s father calls for calm Monday — the day his son is laid to rest

— Michael Brown will be laid to rest Monday, and his father says he just wants one thing: peace.

“Please, please take a day of silence so I can, so we can, lay our son to rest. Please. It’s all I ask,” Michael Brown Sr. said at a rally in St. Louis on Sunday.

Brown,18, was fatally shot on August 9 by officer Darren Wilson while walking down the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

His death sparked days of violent protests in the St. Louis suburb. In the past several days, things have calmed down, and the town is slowly coming back to life.

Brown will be eulogized at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.

The White House is sending three officials to his funeral, including one who attended high school with his mother.

One of them is Broderick Johnson, who leads the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. He’ll be joined by Marlon Marshall, a St. Louis native who attended high school with Brown’s mother, and Heather Foster. Marshall and Foster are part of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

“We don’t want anything tomorrow to happen that would defile the name of Michael Brown,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday. “This is not about our rage tomorrow. It’s about the legacy and memory of his son, and the mother’s son, and their families.”

Race tensions

Two weeks after the shooting sparked violent protests, the mood turned more tranquil over the weekend with smaller crowds and lots of music. Gone were police in riot gear and defiant protesters. The tear gas, rubber bullets and Molotov cocktails were nowhere to be seen, either.

In their place were clusters of officers, hanging around businesses, chatting with one another.

Music flowed at a memorial held Sunday at Greater St. Marks Missionary Baptist Church.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. always had music as an element of protest,” said the Rev. E.G. Shields Jr., who helped organize the event. “He knew there was a way that music helped soothe the soul.”

Race has been at the forefront of the tensions; Brown was African-American and the officer who shot him is white.

Wilson’s supporters held a rally in St. Louis on Sunday, where organizers announced they had raised more than $400,000 for the officer.

St. Louis authorities have released details of the racial and gender makeup of the grand jury, which started hearing testimony on Wednesday.

It comprises six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man, said Paul Fox, the administrator for the St. Louis County Circuit Court.

St. Louis County is 70% white and 24% black, according to last year’s estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Crucial grand jury

Unlike a jury in a criminal case, which convicts someone if jurors are convinced of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a grand jury decides whether there is “probable cause.” They decide whether to charge someone with a crime based on testimony and evidence presented in the absence of a judge.

In Missouri, they don’t have to be in unanimous agreement to press such an indictment, as long as nine of the 12 agree on a charge.

The federal government is conducting a separate investigation.

FBI agents interviewed more than 200 people as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights investigation, according to law enforcement sources.

The federal investigation must prove there was an element of “racial hostility” in the shooting. That’s a higher standard than the one before the St. Louis County grand jury.

The 12 members of the grand jury are crucial. They may be the first to reach a decision on whether the case will be defined as a murder charge, a lesser charge or no charge at all.

CNN’s Faith Karimi and Dana Ford contributed to this report.