“We have lost a great champion of civil rights in our community.”
Darren Seals, a well known leader of the Ferguson protests, was found shot and killed inside of a burning car early Tuesday morning in Missouri.
According to reports, he 29-year old was a proud local activists and rather than going out on the national level like some other activists, he chose to stay local and try to encourage reform in Ferguson following the 2014 police killing of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.
“We have lost a great champion of civil rights in our community,” said Bassem Masri, a friend who had live-streamed the Ferguson protests, sometimes with Seals walking behind him to protect him as he filmed.
"Activists who attended the vigil said they were furious to find that police had not taped off the crime scene, and that there were still bullet casings on the ground they thought police should have collected as evidence."
“We were literally stepping on the ashes from his car and his body,” said Tamara “Bates” Dodd, a St Louis hip-hop artist and activist. “That was probably the thing that shook me up the most, seeing little kids walking past, not knowing what they’re standing on.”
While Seals was regarded as a champion of civil rights in the community by his friends and family, he also created some controversy by speaking out against the Black Live Matter movement, and even hit high-profile Black Lives Matter activist, Deray McKesson.
According to The Guardian;
In a Twitter post last year, Seals wrote: “#BlackLivesMatter is a gay/feminist movement not a black movement they are not ‘leaders’ they’re thieves who exploited the work of black ppl.”
McKesson addressed Darren Seals' death on twitter, although he didn't specifically mention his name which goes against the movement's "Say his name" rallying cry.
Some activists were understandably frustrated with the way Darren Seals went about his protest but he was truly dedicated to improving his community. He had planned to open a community center staffed by people with street backgrounds and former inmates, offering job programs and training on how to open a bank account, how to vote, and how to stay out of trouble by buying a gun legally. His friends still hope to raise enough money to open the Darren Seals Youth Community Center in his honor.
Seals' death is eerily similar to the 2014 murder of Deandre Joshua near the street where Michael Brown was gunned down, though police say the two crimes appear unrelated.
As T.I. pointed out on instagram, this tragedy marks the sixth time that a black man has been found shot and burnt to death in the Ferguson/St. Louis area in the last two years.