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On Mike Brown Anniversary, Activists Remember Birth of a Movement

Marchers Honor Michael Brown 1:34

Prominent Black Lives Matter activists and political figures took to social media Tuesday to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed black male killed by Officer Darren Wilson in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown's death in August 2014 sparked scenes of unrest for days in Ferguson that brought the world's attention to the issues of excessive police force and over-policing within the nation's communities of color. For the Black Lives Matter activists, the event sparked a movement that has pushed these issues into the mainstream, even shaping the discourse on race in the 2016 presidential campaign.

"Today, the two year anniversary of the death of #MikeBrown is harder than I thought it'd be. It's been a long two years," tweeted DeRay McKesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist who ran for mayor of Baltimore this past spring.

Black Lives Matter activist Johnetta Elzie tweeted: "#MikeBrown’s death changed the world, his death changed my life. #Ferguson"

The movement's official Twitter account called for a national moment of silence for four-and-a-half minutes, for the four-and-a-half hours Brown's body lied unattended on the street outside the Canfield Drive apartment complex where he was killed.

Other activists were more sanguine on the anniversary.

For Antonio French, a St. Louis city Alderman who marched alongside protesters in Ferguson, Brown's death has not yet brought the necessary reforms to what he called an unequal criminal justice system. He warned that as long as police officers nationally carried on "unaccountable for their actions," there would remain a deep mistrust between police and the communities they ostensibly are meant to serve and protect.

"There are Fergusons everywhere," French told NBC News. “There are many powder kegs all across America that could explode at any minute”

In the two years since Ferguson, there has been political posturing but no concrete action, said Tory Russell, co-founder of Hands Up United - an organization created in the aftermath of Brown's death to organize activists.

"We’ve asked for body cameras, civilian review boards, more training for police and have gotten nothing," Russell told NBC News. He added, like French, that as people became more desperate, "violence could be met with violence" and the situation could quickly spiral out of control in cities across the country.

"Since Mike Brown, we've seen countless other black men killed by police," said Russell. "At some point, people will forego the system and resort to any means necessary to protect themselves."

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