Monday evening, protesters took to the streets of Elizabeth City for the sixth night since the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. by Pasquotank County officers last Wednesday morning.
The action took place just hours after attorneys for Brown’s family said their clients were only permitted to see a 20-second “snippet” of the body cam footage of the “execution.”
“I want to highlight the disrespect to this family. I want to highlight the broken system of justice we have in this country,” Bakari Sellers, an attorney on the legal team representing Brown’s family, said.
The viewing came after a protracted conflict between county officials and family members who first went to the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office on Friday expecting to see the footage.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten II said the meeting was to introduce himself to Brown’s family and express his sympathies for their loss and was never to share the video footage.
On Saturday, Wooten told Carolina Public Press he had decided to allow the family to see the footage. He also announced he would petition the court to release the footage to the public if the State Bureau of Investigation did not object, a change from his earlier indications that he wanted to wait until the SBI concluded its investigation.
The only attorney permitted at the viewing was Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, a representative for Brown’s minor children and a licensed North Carolina attorney. She said at no time in the footage was Brown aggressive or threatening toward law enforcement agents.
“Let’s be clear, this was an execution. Andrew Brown was in his driveway. The sheriffs’ truck blocked him in his driveway so he could not exit his driveway. Andrew had his hands on his steering wheel. He was not reaching for anything. He wasn’t touching anything,” she said.
Cherry-Lassiter said repeatedly that the entirety of the footage she and Khalil Ferebee, Brown’s son, were allowed to view was only 20 seconds.
Sellers and co-counsel Benjamin Crump laid blame for the brevity of the redacted tape and the exclusion of some family members from the viewing at the feet of Pasquotank County Attorney Mike Cox.
“I want you to know that the sheriff was very, very apologetic and diplomatic, Sellers said. “The sheriff wanted to make sure that the family saw the video, but it was the county attorney that gave us this back-and-forth.”
Cox did not respond to requests for comment from Carolina Public Press.
Monday evening, some protesters gathered outside the home of Cox, but organizers encouraged the group to move due to concerns about private property. The couple hundred protesters regrouped in front of the Sheriff’s Office before deciding to march again through Elizabeth City’s streets.
Quentin Jackson, a City Council member of neighboring Hertford who has established himself as a leading organizer of the Elizabeth City protests, steered the group on an impromptu yet well-worn circuit through the city, temporarily shutting down the Camden bridge intersection before moving to the main commercial thoroughfare, Ehringhaus Street.
The protesters do not follow planned routes. The Elizabeth City Police Department patrol units block traffic for the protesters on all sides and adjust on the fly as the marchers start, stop and change direction.
Earlier in the day, two cars came close to hitting protesters, according to several people, including Kerwin Pittman, a community organizer with the nonprofit advocacy group Emancipate NC. The cars were able to drive around the police blockades by cutting through parking lots and narrowly missed marchers, Pittman said.
“I advise people coming out here to be extra vigilant, extra cautious, and just keep your eyes open and participate in the process but also make sure you’re being safe,” Pittman said.
Monday’s protests were different from the relatively small and tightly managed protests to date, in part because they were seeing an increase in youth and out-of-town participation, Jackson said.
The protest included a car caravan that followed the marchers, then pulled up beside them on the four-lane Ehringhaus Street. The cars honked and young people riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers revved their engines, sometimes speeding up and down the line of pedestrians, which stretched out for close to two city blocks.
Some of those on dirt bikes popped wheelies and sped past the police escort, which did not respond in any visible manner.
“I think tomorrow (Elizabeth City Police) Chief (Eddie) Buffaloe is going to have a serious conversation with us,” Jackson said, regarding the incorporation of motor vehicles in the marches and the safety of those on foot.
There have been no arrests of protesters, according to the Police Department’s communications office late Monday night.
Jackson regrouped protesters at the intersection of Arthur and Ehringhaus to stress that the protests were nonviolent and to warn about the potential of counterprotesters. There was a rumor of a pro-law enforcement county protest that failed to materialize Monday night.
The protest will resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday outside of the Sheriff’s Office, Jackson said, followed by a press conference with the Brown family’s lawyers around 11 a.m.