ELIZABETH CITY — The Rev. Al Sharpton told mourners at the funeral of an unarmed black man killed by sheriff’s deputies that official arguments for withholding full body camera and dashcam footage amount to “a shell game.”
Sharpton leader was among many civil rights leaders who spoke Monday at the funeral of Andrew Brown, killed by deputies on April 21 when they arrived at his house to serve arrest and search warrants. Sharpton asked rhetorically how releasing the tapes could prejudice a grand jury when the grand jury is supposed to see the tape themselves.
“I know a con game when I see it,” Sharpton said. “Release the whole tape and let the folk see what happened to Andrew Brown.”
The Rev. Anthony Spearman, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told Brown’s family that the N.C. NAACP and Pasquotank NAACP will stand with them.
“I want everybody to know that we’re going to put an end to this shell game that Rev. Al spoke about,” Spearman said.
Some 200 members of Brown’s family were seated in the central section of the sanctuary at Fountain of Life Church, many wearing shirts reading “Say his name ... Andrew Brown” or “Justice for Andrew Brown.” After the funeral they joined in a procession led by a horse-drawn hearse that carried Brown’s casket.
Sharpton said no one is asking for favors or anything special — only justice.
“If he did wrong, bring him to court,” Sharpton said, referring to the warrants officers were serving when Brown was killed. “But you don’t have the right to bring him to his funeral.”
The funeral brought others who said they shared a bond with Brown’s family.
Gwen Carr — the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in New York City in 2014 — said they will always have a friend in her.
“Where we live shouldn’t determine if we live,” Carr said.
Monica Wright, the sister of Daunte Wright, who was killed by police in Minnesota last month, said she is outraged that it has happened to someone else.
The Rev. William Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach, said when Abel was killed by his brother Cain in the Bible, his blood cried out from the ground. Now Brown’s blood cries out from the ground, Barber said.
“That’s why there is going to be justice — because the blood will never stop speaking,” Barber said. “Until the tapes come out the blood will cry from the ground.”
Monday’s funeral followed the largest day of demonstrations yet in the city.
About 700 marchers took to the streets Sunday afternoon during a day that included public and private viewings of Brown’s body.
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.
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.”
Last week, Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster of Greenville rejected a media consortium’s petition to have the court release footage of the killing. He did grant a petition from Brown’s son, Khalil Ferebee, ordering 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 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.”
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.