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Andrew Brown Jr.'s Funeral Was As Much A Protest As It Was A Goodbye


Andrew Brown Jr.'s funeral was both a goodbye and a protest. Brown was remembered yesterday with a funeral service in Elizabeth City, N.C. Last month, he was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies serving a warrant. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports from Elizabeth City.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Like many funerals, Andrew Brown Jr.'s began with scripture and song.


UNIDENTIFIED CLERGY: Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

MCCAMMON: But Brown's funeral was not only about his life or his death at the hands of Pasquotank County sheriff's deputies. It was also about the lives and deaths of many other Black people who've been killed by police.


AL SHARPTON: Before we could get through one 24-hour cycle after the conviction of Derek Chauvin...

MCCAMMON: Civil rights leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton, delivered a eulogy reminding the audience that Brown's death came just hours after a former Minneapolis police officer's murder conviction.


SHARPTON: ...For the lynching by knee of George Floyd, a policeman killed Andrew Brown Jr.

MCCAMMON: There are many lingering questions about how Brown died. His family members, based on a 20-second clip of body camera footage they've seen and an independent autopsy, have described his death as an execution. Pasquotank County sheriff's officials have defended their decision to send a SWAT-style team to arrest Brown on a drug warrant, pointing to his criminal record and history of resisting arrest. Sharpton responded to that.


SHARPTON: Well, let's talk about your record. Let's talk about the record of police brutality in the state of North Carolina. Since you want to bring up a record, let's put the record out here.

MCCAMMON: Sharpton called on Congress to pass police reform legislation. Those themes were repeated throughout the service where relatives remembered Brown's sense of humor and love for his seven children and called for greater police accountability. Sandra White was among several of Brown's relatives who spoke, calling on those present to carry on the fight for justice.


SANDRA WHITE: So God used Andrew just like He used George Floyd for to spread his word, for the fight for his people.

MCCAMMON: Brown's family was joined by other relatives of Black men killed by law enforcement around the country, including Eric Garner, Daunte Wright and Floyd.


BRIDGETT FLOYD: Here we are once again. I said I was not going to attend another funeral after my brother.

MCCAMMON: Bridgett Floyd stood on stage next to the others.


FLOYD: I feel the pain that this family is feeling.

ELIZABETH CITY CHURCH CHOIR: (Singing) Oh, very soon. Soon and very soon - we are - we are going to see the King. Soon and very soon...

MCCAMMON: Afterward, Brown's casket was wheeled from the sanctuary and later to a hearse, where his family released white doves.


MCCAMMON: Brown's death remains under investigation by state officials in North Carolina and the FBI. Within several days, a judge has said that Brown's family will be allowed to see more of the body camera footage that may contain some of the answers they've been seeking.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Elizabeth City, N.C.

ELIZABETH CITY CHURCH CHOIR: (Singing) No more crying there. No more crying there - we are going to see - we are going to see the king. No more crying... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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