A group of about 700 marchers took to the streets of Elizabeth City Sunday afternoon to peaceful demand justice in the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by Pasquotank sheriff’s deputies.
The Rev. Greg Drumwright of Greensboro-based Justice 4 the Next Generation worked with local leaders and organizers in planning the rally and march.
“We’re here to engage the issues,” Drumwright said, asking marchers to remain peaceful and not engage others in a hostile manner during the protest that began around 1 p.m. at Waterfront Park.
Protesters marched from the park first to Brown’s residence at 411 Perry Street, where he was shot by Pasquotank deputies on April 21, before making their way to the Pasquotank Public Safety Building on Colonial Avenue where both the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office are headquartered.
“Per the wishes of the (Brown) family, this is a peaceful demonstration,” Drumwright said during a rally at the park prior to the march. “We’re all family out here today.”
Drumwright said “our weapons are our (marching) feet and our voices.”
He urged protesters to raise their voices, because “peaceful does not mean quiet.”
“This is a peaceful, yet powerful, nonviolent direct action movement today,” Drumwright said. “We’re out here in love today.”
“Whose streets?” Drumwright shouted.
“Our streets!” the crowd at the park responded.
Drumwright added his voice Sunday to those of the Brown family and community leaders in Elizabeth City who have called for the immediate release of full footage from the deputies’ body cameras and a sheriff’s pickup dash camera.
Last week, a Superior Court judge rejected a media consortium’s petition to have the courts release the footage. Judge Jeff Foster did agree, however, to Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee’s petition to release the footage from four body cameras and one dash camera to Brown’s family. Foster ordered the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday to disclose the footage to Brown’s family within 10 days and release it to them no later than in 45 days. He also ordered deputies’ faces and identifying badges to be blurred so they could not be identified.
As protesters marched from Waterfront Park to Brown’s house on Perry Street, one of their chants was: “Release the tape ... the real tape ... the whole tape.”
Members of Brown’s family spoke briefly at Waterfront Park, thanking the gathered marchers for being there.
The Rev. Anthony Spearman, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, expressed “complete agreement” with the rules established for the march.
“We are here for the cause of right,” Spearman said.
Spearman said people from across the state and beyond will continue supporting the Brown family.
Andrew Brown Jr. “was a human being,” Spearman said.
Spearman prayed for “this sea of individuals” and asked, “Bless us to be as one this day.”
Among those waiting for Drumwright to speak was Anthony Moore of Raleigh, who said Sunday’s protest march was the first in which he had ever participated.
Moore said he was moved to join the Justice 4 the Next Generation movement after seeing the “shameful” way he said police in the Alamance County of Graham treated protesters this past year. Moore said he felt the treatment was “too reminiscent” of how police used dogs and water hoses against marchers at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
“That was the catalyst to have me here right now,” Moore said.
Ulysses “Jimmy Bones” Edwards, the artist who painted a mural on the side of Brown’s house that features Brown’s face, spoke at a separate rally at Brown’s home on Perry Street, explaining that it was “an honor” to be asked by the home’s owner, Andre Simpson, to paint a mural memorializing the slain man.
He said he appreciated the community stepping up for Brown and asked people to say Andrew Brown’s name whenever they pass by the house.
Lillie Brown Clark, who is Brown’s aunt, thanked those who had come to support her nephew and his family.
“The family is heartbroken, angry, distressed, hurt — in disbelief,” Clark said during the rally outside Brown’s home.
She thanked protesters for their persistence. Sunday marked the 11th straight day of protests over Brown’s death that began the afternoon he was shot and killed.
“You have just been relentless,” Clark said. “You have stayed the course.”
She thanked the Pasquotank Branch of the NAACP and community organizers such as brothers Keith and Kirk Rivers for “good work” in organizing protests and working to keep the peace.
Clark said the full body camera footage of her nephew’s fatal shooting by deputies has not been released but it will be.
“It’s coming,” Clark said. “It’s not over.”
Volunteers from Bible Way Church on Byrum Court handed out free bottles of cold water and cold sports drinks to marchers. Free hot dogs and hamburgers were given out by God is Able Outreach Ministry. Pastor Russell Rouson and co-pastor Kwanza Rouson said they work in the community to help people who are homeless or in need in other ways.
Russell Rouson said he had known Andrew Brown Jr. for a long time.
“Nobody deserves to be killed,” Rouson said. “There’s a process.”
Two public viewings for Brown was also held Sunday, one at Horton’s Funeral and Cremations in Hertford, and a second at Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City. As of 4:40 p.m., 251 people had come through the line at MOA to pay their respects to Brown. The viewing was scheduled to go through 6 p.m.
Davy Armstrong, who recalled attending Northeastern High School with Brown, was among those who attended the viewing at MOA.
Armstrong said he had seen Brown just a few days before he was killed.
“Some of his last words he told me were, ‘I’m doing pretty good, Davy,’” Armstrong said.
Between 70 and 80 people attended the first public viewing at Horton’s Funeral Home and Cremations in Hertford.
Seated at a table in a quiet den by the front door, Horton, who is also a city councilor in Elizabeth City, described Brown’s shooting death by Pasquotank deputies as “a tough time for our community.”
“Being with the family and seeing their pain, their emotion and their hurt has put me in a more peculiar place than probably so many other funerals because I am so hands-on,” he said. “I see what they are going through. It is just pitiful, very hurtful.”
Horton said Brown’s family is deeply distraught over his shooting death.
“They are devastated and distraught beyond what words can say,” he said. “The family is very heartbroken.”
Horton paused a moment. He then said handling the arrangements for Brown’s funeral is not any like anything he’s ever done before.
“As a funeral director, this is the hardest case that I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “The reason I say that is because there are so many unanswered questions and so many things we don’t know. Death as a whole is hard, but when you have this type of death, this much national attention, and very little to no answers” it’s even more difficult.
Perquimans Weekly Editor Miles Layton contributed to this report.