Andrew Brown Jr. Memorial Services Held As Peaceful Protests Continue In Elizabeth City
Hundreds of protesters gathered on a breezy, warm Sunday afternoon in Elizabeth City to demand justice and accountability for the death of Andrew Brown Jr., the Black man who was shot and killed by Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants a week and a half ago.
The protesters were mostly young and from across North Carolina. They chanted "Say his name. Andrew Brown!" and "What do we want? We want the tapes. When do we want them? Now!" as they walked from a waterfront park through the city, pausing at various locations, including Brown’s home, which now features a large mural of him.
The peaceful, and at times festive march, happened as mourners streamed into a public viewing of Brown at the nearby Museum of the Albemarle, where he lied in open casket. He was dressed in a white dress shirt with a paisley tie. An earlier viewing was also held at the Horton’s Funeral Home in Hertford.
The event was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright, a Greensboro-based activist, who brought busloads of young protestors with him. The crowd included not just Drumright’s group, but many others from out of town, and a pack of media that even included Chinese television.
This invasion of the small city, which has gone on to some degree for a week and a half bothers some in town, but not Russell Rouson. He and his wife, Kwanza, were grilling sausages beside on a church as the marches came by, as part of their street ministry to feed the poor in the community.
“It’s needed. We need to be heard and seen,” Rouson said. “And as a community, we all need to become one.”
The first stop was at Brown’s rented home, where he was shot in his car after officers tried to serve warrants during a drug investigation. Mud from the wheels of his car was still spattered on a wall, beside a mural of him that a friend painted on after his death.
There was a brief vigil, then march went on.
Carolyn Story, an Elizabeth City resident, marched for civil rights on the same streets as a teenager in the 1960s. She and her daughter Kim sat in folding chairs outside the viewing to show their support on Sunday. Story said she was happy to see the day draw protesters from across the state.
"I'm glad that they are here," Carolyn Story said. "So that the eyes of the world can see, it's not just happening in one place, it's happening all over."
Protesters descended on Elizabeth City from places like Greensboro and Graham. As they moved downtown, Cheryl Sanders Seymore of Elizabeth City sat outside waiting for the viewing to begin.
“Just to pay final respects to the person that we’ve been protesting, this is Day 12” she said. “I didn’t know him personally, but I feel like I do.”
Mourner Kenyatta Swain said he knew Brown and described him as "always pleasant, willing to help anyone. Just a good guy, always for the community.”
Protesters ended their march outside the Pasquotank Public Safety Building, where the crowd heard speeches from representatives of Brown's legal team, his family, the North Carolina NAACP, and the Rev. William Barber II, the leader of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Brown’s funeral will be held at noon Monday in Elizabeth City, with the Rev. Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy.
Brown’s family asked Sharpton to deliver the eulogy because they felt the civil rights leader would properly honor his legacy, said Lee Ferebee, the uncle of Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee.
The civil rights leader delivered the eulogy recently for Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota.
Sharpton told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he agreed to the family’s request and spoke to Khalil Ferebee by phone last week. He said he’s also working with local clergy and North Carolina civil rights leaders including Barber, to draw attention to racial injustice.
“The family ought to know that the value of his life is being saluted around the world,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton said that he wants to both celebrate Brown’s life and help call attention to larger problems with policing that need to be addressed.
“I would want to get across that this is a human being. And for us, it’s part of a continual abuse of police power,” he said.
On Thursday, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said that he had restored to duty four out of the seven deputies who were placed on administrative leave after the shooting death of Brown. Wooten said a review of body camera video showed the four did not fire their weapons.
Sunday’s march ended in a parking lot at the sheriff’s department, where the sheriff had let Drumright’s group set up a speaker’s stand. He said the activists would keep the pressure on. Rev. William Barber, the national civil rights leader from Goldsboro, reminded the crowd that Brown was a father, brother, nephew and son.
“Tomorrow, we will lay Andrew to rest, but we can’t rest. Oh, no no no,” Barber said. “We’re going lay him to rest, but we can’t rest.”
Freelance photographer Kate Medley and the Associated Press contributed to this report.