Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon did not attend the funeral service Monday for Michael Brown, the unarmed teen shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., because Nixon was “uninvited,” two African-American community leaders told the Washington Examiner.
On Sunday, Nixon’s office initially said he planned to attend the service. But on Monday, Nixon’s office changed course, saying he would not attend “out of respect for the family” and to give them “time to focus on remembering Michael and grieving their loss.”
Actually, Nixon did not have much of a choice. The governor skipped the service in light of still-simmering anger among African-American leaders and activists in St. Louis, who have harshly criticized Nixon’s tepid response to Brown’s death and subsequent protests.
“I don’t think [Nixon] wanted to disrupt the funeral, because a lot of the African-American community in St. Louis didn’t want him there,” said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, of St. Louis, a former chairwoman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus who has clashed with Nixon in the past. “So he decided to stay away.”
Many of Missouri’s statewide and federal elected officials did attend the service.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, was there too. “Honored to attend #MichaelBrown funeral service and to pay my respects,” Kinder tweeted Monday. “Rest in peace.”
Also in attendance were Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, not all from Missouri.
“[Nixon] was the only one that was not welcome,” Nasheed said.
A spokesman for Nixon declined to comment, except to point to the statement distributed Monday by the governor's office.
This marks only the most recent strain in Nixon’s tangled relationship with Missouri’s African-American leaders, a well-known history to many in Missouri politics. As a Democrat, Nixon has counted on this demographic’s grudging support in many elections, but Nixon has riled many African-American leaders in Missouri with controversial policy positions, such as his opposition in the 1990s to a busing program meant to desegregate schools.
Nixon has stretched the African-American community’s tolerance to its limits in his uncertain reaction to Ferguson. After being slow to acknowledge the unrest and take decisive action to quell it, Nixon has said he will not replace St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch as the lead in Brown’s case, even though McCulloch is perceived by many protesters as too sympathetic to law enforcement.
On Monday, as Brown was laid to rest, frustration from that latest decision was still simmering.
Said Anthony Shahid, an activist who has been in close contact with Brown’s family, but in this case was not authorized to speak on their behalf, “I can tell you for a fact that the black community didn’t want [Nixon] there.”