According to the St. Louis County Police Department, officers found 29-year-old Darren Seals’s body with a gunshot wound in a charred car in Riverside, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. The police are investigating the case as a homicide. The police told Fusion there are no currently no suspects at this time.
Self-described as a "revolutionary, activist, and unapologetically black," Seals had said in the past that he did not align with mainstream Black Lives Matter movement, who he says coopted the protests in Ferguson at the expense of the Ferguson community.
Many remembered Seals on social media, including Campaign Zero activists Brittany Packnett and Johnetta Elzie (both are St. Louis natives), as well as Deray Mckesson, who all protested in Ferguson two years ago:
No one deserves to die.— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) September 6, 2016
the world needs some love. and fast.
I hope his soul is at rest. I truly don't know what else to say.— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) September 6, 2016
We can live in a world where people don't die by violence. Nobody deserves to die. We did not always agree, but he should be alive today.— deray mckesson (@deray) September 6, 2016
Seals led protests in Ferguson after former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014. When a grand jury declined to indict Wilson for Brown’s death that November, Seals stood outside, holding Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden.
"After they dropped [the non-indictment decision,] his mom broke down so bad it hurt my soul," he wrote on Instagram.
Seals, however, was always focused on how Brown’s death was a microcosm of the various injustices black people face around the country.
In an essay for MTV News after the grand jury decision was announced, Seals focused on the importance of using Brown’s death to educate people on the pervasive problem of police brutality:
We don’t educate them on those things now. They don’t teach them that in school, and a lot of their parents don’t know these things because they were never taught. So the goal is to teach people how to avoid those situations, that way another Mike Brown situation won't occur. We’re trying to prevent the next Mike Brown before it happens, through music, through writing, speaking at schools, talking to the kids and just educating them.
He was also a critic of black voters’ general allegiance to the Democratic Party, especially when it comes to tackling racial injustice. In 2014, after Democrats like St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch failed to deliver justice for Brown, Seals noted that party identification was simply not enough for black voters’ support. "Just because they’ve got the D next to their name, that don’t mean nothing," he told the Washington Post in October 2014. "The world is watching us right now. It’s time to send a message of our power."
Today, some of the changes Seals and other activists have been fighting for are starting to come to fruition. Independent organizations like Campaign Zero, various journalism outlets, and now the federal government are making a concerted effort to collect and analyze data on police killings that happen around the country.
Additionally, activists in the movement for black lives have been pivotal in pushing both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to discuss racial justice. Donald Trump has charted his path to the White House by identifying the movement for black lives as that which America’s greatness stands against. But through the dedication of activists like Seals, Democrats have been pushed further to the left than initially expected, with a party platform inclusive of criminal justice reform.
Seals, nonetheless, always kept his eye on the bigger picture. In his final tweets, he discussed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice.
Update: This story was updated to clarify Seals’s relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement.