LOS ANGELES — 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, 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 six-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.