Raising signs, flags and fists, oor 200 protesters walked through the streets of Elizabeth City in North Carolina on Wednesday night following a judge’s ruling, which denied the immediate release of police video footage of the killing of Andrew Brown last week.
The evening’s march wound its way through the flat streets of the majority Black city of roughly 18,000 in the state’s coastal plain near the Outer Banks.
The crowd blocked off several intersections, chanting “release the tape” and “20 seconds, not enough,” in reference to the short clip of body-camera footage that Brown’s family have been permitted to see.
“You’re just making it worse by not being transparent,” said Dustin Sidebottom, 50, an Elizabeth City resident who had been arrested protesting on Tuesday but was back on Wednesday, waving a large Black Lives Matter flag.
Sidebottom said officials’ handling of the Brown case has created a breach of trust that will be extremely difficult to repair.
“No matter what he did, he did not deserve to die," hy het bygevoeg.
Bruin, a 42-year-old father of seven, was killed as Pasquotank county police attempted to serve search-and-arrest warrants on 21 April, one day after a former Minneapolis police officer was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, and on the heels of several other recent police killings, including the shooting deaths of Adam Toledo, 13, in Chicago en Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, in Columbus, Ohio.
Through a separate proceeding earlier this week, Brown’s family and lawyers viewed a 20-second clip of body-camera footage, which they said showed officers firing at Brown’s car as he drove away. The family also released the results of a private autopsy, which determined Brown was killed by a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
“My dad got executed just by trying to save his own life,” Brown’s son Khalil Ferebee gesê Monday. “It ain’t right. It ain’t right at all.”
Attorneys representing Brown’s family argue that full release of the footage is critical to maintaining the integrity of the investigation into his death, and providing some sense of justice.
“Government officials need to be held accountable and the only way to hold them accountable is through transparency,” attorney Wayne Kendall said. “We can’t have a free and open society unless we have disclosure of the actions of public officials.”
Kendall categorized the recording disclosure as a “partial” victory for Brown’s family, but community members said the delay and obfuscation amounted to complicity by local officials.
“This community is showing more integrity than (die) elected people who are there to ensure our rights,” said Keith Rivers, Pasquotank county branch president of the NAACP. “We don’t have a problem with law enforcement, we just have a problem with unlawful law enforcement officers.”
A recently enacted North Carolina law allows law enforcement can disclose, or set up a viewing, of footage for certain individuals, but releasing – providing a copy of a recording – is only possible through court order.
On Wednesday, superior court judge Jeffery Foster denied a petition by lawyers for several media outlets to release the footage of Brown. Under Foster’s order, in the next 10 dae, Brown’s immediate family will be allowed to view a version of the footage – which comes from five police body cameras and a single vehicle dashboard camera – that has been edited per the judge’s request.
In his ruling, Foster gesê releasing the footage to the public would create a “serious threat to the fair and impartial and orderly administration of justice.” The judge also indicated that a full release could occur after 30 dae, which he said would give the State Bureau of Investigation time to conclude its resensie of the incident.
In arguing against its release, Pasquotank county district attorney Andrew Womble said that giving the media access to the footage would not serve public interest and could taint a potential trial. Pasquotank county sheriff Tommy Wooten has said he supports the release of the footage, but cautioned that videos “only tell part of the story”.
“This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher,” Wooten said in a video statement.
Following Brown’s killing, seven sheriff’s deputies were put on administrative leave, while at least two more resigned, though a sheriff’s department spokesman reportedly said the resignations were unrelated.
Brown’s funeral is scheduled for next week, with the Rev Al Sharpton set to deliver a eulogy, just two weeks after delivering another for Daunte Wright, a young Black man shot dead by police during a traffic stop.
Wednesday’s announcement, which took place at a packed county courthouse, steps from the glittering Pasquotank River and in the shadow of a Confederate monument, set off renewed rallies. A group of clergy led a march from a local church to the street where Brown was killed, a site that has since been memorialized with dozens of candles and flowers.
Demetria Williams, a neighbor who grew up with Brown, was among the marchers. On the day he was killed, Williams said she heard gunfire and saw officers standing behind Brown’s car shooting. She called the incident “sickening.”
“Everybody just keeps bringing up his past,” Williams told the Guardian “At the end of the day he was human, jy weet? Why bring that up? It’s not about his past, it’s about him being murdered.”
Elizabeth City officials have declared a state of emergency for the area and instituted an 8 p.m. curfew that went into effect on Tuesday. Despite the peaceful nature of the marches, some 75 officers and deputies in riot gear were deployed to round up a handful of protesters past curfew Wednesday night. At least a dozen people have been arrested so far this week.
The FBI said it has opened a federal civil rights investigation into Brown’s death. The agency’s Charlotte field office will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to “determine whether federal laws were violated,” according to an FBI spokesperson.
Op Dinsdag, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor to handle the case.
“This would help assure the community and Mr Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias,” Cooper said in a statement.
The North Carolina legislature is also looking to reform the way law enforcement recordings are handled. A bill filed earlier this month would allow the release of law enforcement body cam footage after 48 ure, unless the agency can make a case against its release.
Brown’s case will put “enormous pressure” on lawmakers and officials to make these videos part of the public record, said Brandon Garrett, a law professor at Duke University.
“The [current] law was passed to try to insulate police, because everyone understands that these videos can document seriously wrong constitutional violations,” Garrett told the Guardian.
“That doesn’t mean you release them without any consideration of any privacy concerns or safety concerns, but the default should be that these videos belong to the public and should be released, otherwise there’s no particular accountability and people’s rights can be harmed.”
Williams, who is Black, said these types of rapid, sweeping changes are the only way folks like her will “stand a chance” in the current system.
“I just want justice," sy het gese. “Not justice for one, justice for all of us.”