*Pastors and denominational leaders representing tens of thousands of parishioners posted demands to the courthouse door regarding the investigation of the killing of Andrew Brown Jr., an unarmed Black man who was shot in the back of the head by North Carolina deputies who wore tactical gear to serve warrants.
Led by Bishop William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach, and Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, former president of the N.C. Council of Churches, about 100 pastors marched to the Pasquotank County Courthouse on Saturday, then posted the demands on the courthouse door and signed them, along with members of the public.
The 42-year-old Brown, a father of seven, was killed April 21 by Pasquotank County deputies serving warrants for nonviolent drug crimes. No weapons or drugs were found on Brown, whose family and attorneys have described his killing as an execution.
“A warrant is not a license to kill and murder,” Bishop Barber said. “A warrant, a gun, and a badge are too much power for a racist, and a trigger-happy group of police.”
Peaceful protesters have taken to the streets every night since Brown was killed, demanding the release of body camera videos.
The protesters “focused on non-violent but not non-resistance,” said Bishop Barber, who also is national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “There’s a difference. They created the necessary tension. And we need to stand with them and say we’re not going to let this go. We can’t let it go. Somebody said we’re about ‘cancel culture.’ We are. We’re going to cancel racism and cancel you killing our children and cancel you killing innocent folk and cancel your lies and cancel your coverup. Yeah, we’re going to cancel. Cancel not having accountability. … We got a lot to cancel. Our forefathers canceled stuff. They canceled segregation. They canceled the voter suppression. This is our time to cancel those things that have nothing to do with what is needed to be a just society.”
The demands call for the release of the full videos from the officers’ body cameras to the public and the family; an independent prosecutor; federal and state laws that call for police accountability and police reform; and a federal pattern and practices investigation of law enforcement in Pasquotank County, along with any counties connected to the killing of Brown.
The family and an attorney have seen 20 seconds of body camera video and are scheduled to see 20 minutes of the two hours of video on Tuesday. Under North Carolina law, a judge must approve the release of body camera video to the public.
A private autopsy showed that Brown was shot five times, including once to the back of the head. Four of seven deputies who were put on leave have returned to duty. The three who fired shots remain on leave.
Family attorney Harry Daniels
“This is the unlawful killing of an unarmed black man in America once again. And they know it. They know it. We know it. The witnesses know it.”
“They are keeping the truth from this family, who is grieving, from this city, from this town, and from this nation.”
Family attorney Chance Lynch
“I am grieved that even in 2021 we still have a justice system and those in a justice system who seek to hide and to distort truth and transparency to avoid accountability.”
Glenda Brown-Thomas, aunt of Andrew Brown Jr.
“We need to see the body cam. Twenty seconds, not enough.Twenty minutes, not enough. We want to see the whole tape.”
“We will not stop until we get justice for my nephew. Say his name!”
Rev. Javan Leach, pastor, Mt. Lebanon AME Zion Church, Elizabeth City
“There’s been too much Black blood saturating the soil of America. And if we continue to stand, maybe they will be able to include us in one nation under God, help me say it, indivisible for liberty, and justice not just for white people not just for black people, but say it with me, for all.”
Rev. Benny Oakes, pastor, First United Methodist Church Elizabeth City
“We need more transparency, not less. Jesus, we need you to recover the sight of our justice system’s blindness. Judge Foster, we need you to perform the duties of your office and release all law enforcement footage to this Brown family and to this community so healing can begin again.”
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, executive director, N.C. Council of Churches
“It’s the day before Mother’s Day and here we are gathered because of another killing by people in power. And we are all wailing. Not just the mothers. But especially maybe on this day before Mother’s Day, we can pay homage to the pain of the mothers. So much pain…You see the pain of the state-sanctioned killing by power-hungry leaders scars us for generations…What we must do is return home and start dismantling racism. No more state-sanctioned killing by denied healthcare. Expand Medicaid already. No more state-sanctioned killing by paying wages so low people cannot feed their children. Raise the minimum wage already. No more state-sanctioned killing by imposing severe voting restrictions that prevent people from electing people that will pass laws to stop the killing. We must force them to stop the killing. And then — only then — will the mothers stop the wailing.”
Rev. Dr. J. Elvin Sadler, general secretary, AME Zion Church
“Doing justice is not a Black or white thing. Doing justice is not a Republican, Democrat or independent thing. Doing justice is not a Black thing or a blue thing. The Hebrew transliteration of justice is ‘make things right.’ We’ve come today to stand with this family to make things right. And we need to stand on truth, on transparency, and accountability for the Brown family.”
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman (AME Zion), former president NC Council of Churches
“Let the truth be told that there have been too many slaughters of African, Mexican and Native Americans. [These deaths] have been flying too far beneath the radar right here in North Carolina. And we need the new United States Department of Justice to come and conduct a pattern or practice investigation.”
“My God! When will enough be enough?! We need truth, transparency and accountability.”
Rev. Dr. Gregory Moss Sr., Lott Carey Foundation
“We’re here because people refuse to see our humanity. It didn’t start today. It didn’t start 17 days ago. They did not see us on the West coasts of Africa. They did not see us when they put us on slave ships and packed us like sardines… They did not see us when they dropped us off in the Caribbean and taught us how to be slaves. They didn’t see us on the auction blocks of this country. They did not see us when they wrote us as three-fifths of a person in the United States Constitution. They didn’t see us when they were hanging us from trees. They didn’t see us the other day when they committed another lynching instead it wasn’t by rope it was by gun. But I got a message for them. You may not see us. But we see you. You may not see us, but we see you. The spirit of George Floyd sees you. The spirit of Eric Garner sees you. The spirit of Andrew Brown sees you. And by the way, God sees you. ”
Rev. Dr. Julie Peeples (United Church of Christ), pastor, Congregational Church, Greensboro
“Friends I would like to specifically grant my remarks to the white community wherever you may be, especially white Christians. Do not turn away from Elizabeth City. Do not turn away from what is happening in your own community. It is time for us to open our eyes and look closer. I know how easy it is for us white Christians to look away from this. To get distracted. To post on Facebook and then move on. I know how busy we are, how hard we feel we are trying. I know how overwhelming all of this can seem how tempting it is to join the second-guessers. I know all those tactics and excuses because I have used every one of them. The time has come for excuses to end. This is not about a few bad apples. It’s about a system that was born racist 400 years ago and cannot rid itself of that sin. We cannot say stuck, that’s just another excuse. There is a better way. A way that upholds truth, transparency, and accountability and that is what is needed right here and right now.”
Rev. Dr. John Mendez, retired pastor, social justice committee of the Progressive National Baptist Convention:
“We are here today to bear witness with the family to bear witness to this tragic event that has occurred in Elizabeth City. The response to it requires resistance. We are here today to resist the coverup, the lies and the lack of transparency and accountability. We are here to resist because the only way that truth will be manifested is through our resistance.”
Rev. Hanna Broome, a presiding elder in the AME Zion Church and tri-chair of the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign:
“We are here today not to demonize people but to demolish preconceived ideas of guilty until proven innocent when it’s a brown or Black body. We stand for all those seeking truth, transparency and accountability. This is a public service announcement on the PA system of the consciousness of everyone’s soul. This time is a code blue situation and moral emergency in this country.”
Rev. Dr. Leonzo Lynch, General Baptist State Convention:
“We are here today because last night, you and I were able to go home to our families. And last night, Andrew Brown did not. He’s dead. He won’t be home with his family tonight either. He’s in the grave. Forty-two years young. So we’ve come from across this state and this region so that these young men standing here with this sign can live.
Bishop Valerie Melvin, regional minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina:
“When unjust practices keep taking the lives of Black and brown children from their mothers, the message reverberates from heaven to earth that families of color, poor families are invisible, only part human and are expendable. So we the clergy of North Carolina showed up today as the extended family of Andrew Brown. We are not invisible. Our voices will not be silent. Our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not a constitutional construct. It is a prophetic utterance.”
Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, reading a statement from Rev. Terri Hord Owens, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ):
“As the mother of a Black man, the wife of a Black man, the daughter of a Black man, the continued killing of Black men with impunity is a direct existential threat to my family and those of Black and brown people across this country. As a Christian minister, I understand that to ignore this continuing injustice is not only to disrespect the humanity of Andrew Brown Jr. but to fail to honor and the image of God in each and every one of us. We cannot be silent in such violation of God’s creation. Policing reform is necessary. Full transparency is necessary. All the tapes of the Andrew Brown case must be released in order for justice to be served.”
Rev. Greg Drumwright, Justice 4 the Next Generation:
“This is a 21st-century coverup. So we’ve come to cancel the coverup. Until you apply pressure, prophets, we will not see the justice that Andrew Brown Jr.’s family deserves. We must keep up this fight and keep up this pressure on a system that was created not to defend us. Andrew Brown is innocent until proven guilty on those arrest warrants that they were supposed to serve. .. Where this no justice, there will be no peace.”
Rev. Nelson Johnson, pastor of Faith Community Church and executive director of The Beloved Community Center of Greensboro:
“These are the times that try folks’ souls: When men and women of color can be shot down like animals and there is a refusal to open up the evidence not only to the family but refusal to open it to anybody except those who have done the shooting. That means we’re in a dangerous period. … Our nation is increasingly in a war on itself. But we must bring a new tool to this war and redirect the energy to truth, transparency and justice so that this nation has the possibility of moving forward.”
Keith Rivers, Pasquotank County NAACP:
“They drove a tactical team with assault rifles into a residential community and school zone and fired. We know this. We know one bullet went through the neighbor’s house, through two or three walls, over a chair where his wife normally sits. To the sheriff: that means you had to authorize it. He authorized a tactical unit into a residential neighborhood within a school zone. And if that’s not reason enough to resign, Sheriff Wooten, I don’t know what is.”