LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hundreds of fans gathered around the grave of Michael Jackson to honor his memory on Tuesday’s 10th anniversary of his death, while the late King of Pop’s estate paid tribute to his artistry and charity.
“Ten years ago today, the world lost a gifted artist and extraordinary humanitarian,” the Jackson estate said in a statement to The Associated Press. “A decade later, Michael Jackson is still with us, his influence embedded in dance, fashion, art and music of the moment. He is more important than ever.”
Jackson’s estate has doggedly worked to protect and enhance Jackson’s legacy, a task made more challenging this year when two men accused Jackson of molesting them as boys in the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” sparking new scrutiny of years-old claims that Jackson preyed on children. Jackson was acquitted of abuse allegations in 2005 and always vehemently denied such allegations, and the estate and his family angrily refuted the men’s claims when the documentary was released in March, noting the men had at one time been among Jackson’s biggest defenders and one testified on his behalf at his criminal trial.
At Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, Jackson’s music blasted as more than 200 fans and mourners from around the world gathered outside the mausoleum that is Jackson’s final resting place.
Michael Leon, 25, came from Beijing for the occasion and led the crowd in a rendition of “You Are Not Alone,” one of Jackson’s later hits.
“That song is my favorite one, and it suits the situation,” Leon said. “I’m not religious, but I hope Michael would be happy.”
Other fans came from as far as Tokyo and Florence, Italy.
Some were dressed as Jackson including 6-year-old Dominic Lendo, who showed off dance moves wearing the singer’s Billie Jean-era garb.
Kurt Williams, 21, who was also dressed as Jackson, flew in from South Carolina to be a part of the scene. He said on this anniversary it was especially important for Jackson fans to demonstrate solidarity in the wake of “Leaving Neverland.”
“Now more than ever, we’ve got to show that we know that Michael Jackson is innocent,” Williams said. “There is no muting going on. There is just a life of celebration. It’s cool to be around people who feel the same way.”
Early Tuesday, fans and workers began placing huge flower arrangements and poster-sized pictures of Jackson, some featuring signed messages from dozens of fans.
A heart made from flowers in the colors of the Iranian flag featured the message “Iran (hearts) MJ.” Another flowered heart read “Love from Denmark.”
Fans also plan to gather at Jackson’s last home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, where the singer received a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol from his doctor. Jackson was declared dead at a hospital at age 50.
Others planned to gather around Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One group planned a Hollywood rally Tuesday to declare his innocence of molestation allegations.
Thomas Mesereau, the attorney who successfully defended Jackson at his 2005 trial, issued a statement Tuesday saying “Jackson’s compassion, humanity, empathy and talent continues to inspire family, friends, supporters and fans across the globe. The legend of this great father, son, sibling and artist marches forward with characteristic brilliance and wonder. His legacy can be attacked by opportunists. But it will never be defeated.”
John Branca and John McClain, both major figures in Jackson’s career when he was alive, as co-executors have taken his badly debt-ridden estate and grossed over $1.3 billion through various Jackson-related projects in the past decade, including the film “This Is It,” a pair of Cirque du Soleil shows and the sale of Jackson assets that included The Beatles catalog.
Jackson left everything to his mother, his children and charity in his will.
The singer’s father, Joe, died last year and is buried in the same cemetery as his son, but Michael’s 89-year-old mother, five brothers, three sisters and three kids remain alive and well 10 years later
Jackson’s brothers tweeted a picture of him with the words, “Forever in our hearts, 1958-2009.”
The death of Jackson was a massive cultural phenomenon, bringing an outpouring of public affection and revival of his songs and largely erasing the taint that remained after his criminal trial, despite his acquittal.
It was one of the earliest instances of the mass mourning on social media that would soon become common, and a massive worldwide audience both on TV and online watched his July 27, 2009 public memorial that included touching tributes from family members including daughter Paris and performances from Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie.