Illinois businessman Phil Schmidt noted the first year anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown with a controversial message on the marquee outside his welding and machine shop in Farmer City, arousing strong sentiment and fueling renewed debate about the 2014 incident.

The message on the marquee read: “Congrats Michael Brown. One year with no criminal behavior.”


Andrew Denno, chief of police in the small, rural town an hour outside the state capital of Springfield, requested that the message be changed, and although unrepentant, Schmidt complied.

“All these people in Ferguson going crazy over a guy that broke the law three times that day, tried to kill a cop, tried to get his gun… what they are doing to cops makes me sick.”

Schmidt referred to the videotaped strong-armed robbery of a convenience store committed by Brown only minutes before his fatal encounter with Officer Wilson.

The shooting of the black teen by white police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9, 2014 touched off rioting and looting in the Kansas City suburb of Ferguson that spread throughout the country.

Wilson was forced to resign and was the subject of concurrent investigations by the police department, the state of Missouri grand jury and the Department of Justice.

He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by the DOJ after a nine-month investigation revealed significant inconsistencies in witness statements and testimony, which also conflicted with forensic evidence. Witnesses also admitted to feeling pressured to lie about the incident to present Brown as the victim of an aggressively hostile racist police officer.

Initial claims were made that the teen was shot while attempting to surrender to the officer with his hands up. The phrase ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ along with the accompanying physical gesture became a rallying call for protests, even repeated by U.S. congressmen and congresswomen on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The autopsies concluded that Brown not only could not have had his hands up at the time he was shot, but that he was, in fact, charging the officer.

Farmer City mayor, Mike Jenkins, was concerned that the message outside Schmidt’s welding shop would reflect badly on the entire community and concurred with the request that it be removed.

Schmidt’s new message was an attack on British Petroleum and U.S. government environmental policies.


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