Brother Marlon said that "we will never understand what he endured, never being able to walk across the street without a crowd gathering."
Jackson's three children were seated in the front row, next to his mother, Katherine Jackson. They stood up and applauded with the crowd as Sharpton praised Jackson as a trailblazer for African Americans.
The service was televised live around the globe. Fans started gathering outside Staples Center as early as 1 a.m. this morning. The lucky ones wore gold and silver wristbands, which designated them as the holders of approximately 17,500 tickets to the memorial service, given out through an online lottery.
Those who streamed into a cordoned-off area around the Staples Center included Savoy Brown, 42, an educator from Diamond Bar, said he almost missed attending because he was serving as a deliberating juror for a trial in Pomona.
He told his fellow jurors Monday morning that he had gotten a ticket from a friend who won the lottery. "I went in and was like, I have a ticket so I hope we get outta here today."
It looked like a long shot, but after lunch "there was kinda a breakthrough and we reached a verdict," he said.
Just north of Olympic Boulevard on Figueroa Street, vendors yelled "MJ stickers," "one for three, two for five -- Michael Jackson photo postcards," and "Ice cold bottled water!"
As police told the street vendors without permits to pack up and leave, someone gave the young woman a ticket. She broke into tears, her black mascara running down her face.
"I didn't think that there would be someone that would give me a ticket," said Akiko Seno, 25, who said she flew from Kanagawa, Japan for the memorial. She spoke in Japanese to journalists and a reporter from The Yomiuri Shimbun helped translate.
The service was attended by celebrities representing all ranges of Jackson's influence on American entertainment and culture. Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson arrived within minutes of one another. Mickey Rooney, Don King, Barbara Walters, Wesley Snipes, directors Brett Ratner and Spike Lee, and TV stars Lou Ferrigno, Tyler Perry and Omarosa were all spotted entering or inside the Staples Center.
While the Los Angeles Police Department deployed 3,200 officers for both a private service at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills and the public ceremony at Staples Center, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said that the crowd appeared to be smaller than initial estimates. "After the event starts, we will begin to de-escalate our presence, which is good news from a financial standpoint," he said. "Very good news."
As the show got under way, LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz reported that most people seemed to have followed the plea to stay home and watch it on TV.
"We have less than 600 people on the Staples Center perimeter," he said. "We are very happy the public heeded the message that best place to watch was on TV."
Still, public officials were concerned enough about the cost of policing the event that the city of Los Angeles posted a plea on its website to Jackson fans, asking them to "help the City of Angels provide the extraordinary public safety resources required to give Michael the safe, orderly and respectful memorial he deserves."
It offered people the chance to help defray city costs for the service, using PayPal, saying that all donations are tax-deductible.
Outside the cordoned-off area around Staples Center this morning, 32-year-old Anthony Spearman held a sign that said "Stop USEing My Taxes 4 Millionaires.
Spearman said he works for USC and has been living in Los Angeles for two years. He said his hours have recently been cut at work and it's hard to pay rent "but they're going to use my taxpayer dollars to pay for his funeral."
"I have respect for MJ and everything," Spearman said, "but I don't think it's right."
Times staff writers Maria Elena Fernandez, Andrew Blankstein, Kimi Yoshino, Ari B. Bloomekatz, Harriet Ryan, Chris Lee, Louis Sahagun, Hector Becerra, Richard Winton, Ruben Vives, Jia-Rui Chong, Rong-Gong Lin II, Nicole Santa Cruz and Phil Willon contributed to this report.