Family members and national civil rights activists alike gathered on Monday in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, for the funeral of Andrew Brown, Jr., a Black man shot by police late last month as he was driving away from officers.
They called for local authorities to be more transparent about Mr Brown’s death, including releasing full body camera footage, and for national legislators to pass police reform after yet another wave of young Black people killed by officers
“There was a time when we had to deal with the back of the bus,” civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton said on Moday delivering Mr Brown’s eulogy. “The times call for a policing act. When you see ten policemen, including a police chief, get on the stand and testify against a policeman in Minneapolis, Minnesota, do you know what time it is? Even the police are tired of making excuses and covering up,” he said.
Mr Sharpton was referring to the numerous police officials who testified against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, just a day before Mr Brown was killed.
The link between Mr Brown and Mr Floyd’s death, and the broader trend of police disproportionately killing Black people, was a major focus of the service. Relatives of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Eric Garner—all unarmed Black men killed by police in recent years—were all in attendance.
“We should be at a birthday party, not at a commemoration for this death,” said Gwen Carr, mother of Mr Garner, whom police in Staten Island, New York, killed in 2014 with a chokehold during an aggressive arrest for selling loose cigarettes. “So many times in Black communities, the police see us as target. Where we live shouldn’t determine if we live.”
Protests have continued nearly every day since Mr Brown was killed, and at the funeral, his family reiterated the call to release body camera footage of what happened.
“Because Andrew cannot make the plea for transparency, it is up to us make the plea for transparency and demand that these videotapes be released,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the families of Daunte Wright and George Floyd. “We already know what they’re going to show. Even Stevie Wonder, he can see what these videos are going to show.”
Mr Brown’s family has privately viewed a 20 second clip from the encounter, where they say a group of 7 or 8 police fired countless shots, including with assault rifles, at Mr Brown as he kept his hands on the wheel of his car and wasn’t threatening officers. Police, who were at Mr Brown’s home to serve a series of warrants, said they didn’t recover any drugs or weapons from the incident.
The Brown family has called, along with community members, for local authorities to release the full body camera footage of what happened.
Last week, a local court ruled that full footage wouldn’t be released for at least a month to protect ongoing investigations into the killing.
Mr Sharpton called this delay a “shell game.”
“Don’t talk to us like we’re stupid,” he said. “If there’s nothing on the tape, there won’t be nothing on it in 45 days. If there’s something on it in 45 days, there’s something on it today.”
State authorities and the FBI are investigating the shooting.
Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by the end of the month, though Republicans in the Senate remain opposed to many of its signature proposals, such as ending the “qualified immunity” that shields individual officers from being sued in many cases.