Darren Seals, a 29-year-old activist and rapper who was a prominent part of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, was found dead of a gunshot wound in a burning car on Wednesday night. In 2014, Seals held Michael Brown’s mother Lezley McSpadden as she wept following a grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown.
Police said that Seals was found dead just before 2 a.m. about 12 miles from his house in the city of Riverview. His body wasn’t found until after the flames in the car had been extinguished. Police then discovered he had been shot.
Seals, who also worked on an assembly line, became active in St. Louis County politics following Brown’s killing, encouraging black community members to vote against a Democratic party he argued had fundamentally failed them. From the Washington Post:
[O]n Nov. 4, the 27-year-old assembly-line worker and hip-hop musician from a deeply Democratic community plans to take bold action. He says he will vote for a white Republican.
“Just because they’ve got the D next to their name, that don’t mean nothing,” said Seals, who lives a few blocks from where a police officer shot Brown. “The world is watching us right now. It’s time to send a message of our power.”
In an interview with MTV in 2014, he described the emotional moment with McSpadden when the grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson:
We already knew what the decision would be, but at the same time it still hurt to hear it.[Darren Wilson] got married right before the decision, so that’s how we knew he wasn’t going to jail. That was the ultimate slap in the face.
And for Mike Brown’s mother to be right there in my arms crying — she literally cried in my arms — it was like I felt her soul crying. It’s a different type of crying. I’ve seen people crying, but she was really hurt. And it hurt me. It hurt all of us.
I don’t recall anyone having a longer protest, a more productive protest, a more creative protest than what we did. I don’t think people will ever really appreciate what we did until years from now. We really did the best we could.
[Mike Brown’s family] is not a family of revolutionaries — this is a family of black people who grew up in the inner city and didn’t have the best education on these topics.
There’s a video still on Seals’ Instagram page of that moment:
Seals also tweeted frequently about local and national politics and Black Lives Matter, with whom he had significant disagreements. Seals accused Black Lives Matter of coopting the movement in Ferguson and being agents of white supremacy and man-hating feminism.
Black Lives Matter activists mourned him Tuesday, with DeRay McKesson tweeting that their political disagreements didn’t mean Seals didn’t deserve to live in peace and safety in his own community.
The St. Louis County Police department is investigating the death as a homicide but haven’t announced any suspects.