In 2014, Lezley McSpadden lost her son when a police officer fatally shot him on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Mo. His name was Michael Brown, and he was 18 and unarmed. McSpadden returned to that spot Friday to announce her plan to run for City Council in 2019.
“Almost four years ago to this day, I ran down this very street and my son was covered in a sheet,” McSpadden said. “It broke me, you know. It brought me down to my knees and made me feel crippled as if I could do nothing else anymore from that moment.” Her decision to run, she said, was showing that she has “learned to walk again.”
“And this is one of my first steps,” she said.
McSpadden said that if elected, she would focus on three things: community policing, economic inequality and access to health care.
“I know a lot of people may ask what makes me qualified,” she said. “But I’ll tell you if a mother had to watch her son lay in the street for four and a half hours and watch a community be completely disrespected by elected officials that we elected, what would you do? You would stand up and fight, too.”
Brown’s death set off months of protests and helped start the Black Lives Matter movement. McSpadden has been a visible presence since her son’s death. She appeared at protests, attended vigils and spoke on panels. In May 2016, she released a book titled, “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy and Love of My Son Michael Brown.” Later that year, she attended the Democratic National Convention, where she stood on stage with other Mothers of the Movement, or women who have lost their children to police brutality or gun violence. Lucy McBath, one of the women who attended the DNC with McSpadden, is running for office in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District as a Democrat.
McSpadden’s candidacy comes as the country continues to grapple with questions about police use of force exposed by her son’s shooting. Earlier this year, the shooting of another unarmed black man, Stephon Clark in Sacramento, touched off weeks of protests. According to The Washington Post’s database, 625 people have been fatally shot by police in 2018.
St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who is white and has held the office since 1991, was sharply criticized for the investigation into Brown’s killing. A grand jury decided not to charge Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown.
On Tuesday, Wesley Bell, a black city council member, defeated McCulloch in a Democratic primary.