August 3, 2021

In Elizabeth City, “black men continue to be killed by police”

By Stéphanie Le Bars

Posted May 26, 2021 at 10:29 a.m. – Updated May 26, 2021 at 10:48 a.m.

First, anger and swear words; then the sobs and the tears. On May 18, late in the morning, Zena Jackson looks up from her cell phone in disbelief. Surrounded by a handful of residents, black and white, gathered in the small downtown area of ​​Elizabeth City (North Carolina), the African-American mother has just learned, live, the conclusions of the prosecutor of the district in the investigation into the death of his cousin, Andrew Brown, killed on April 21 by police: The shots that hit the unarmed father of seven five times were “Justified”. Including the bullet he received in the back of his neck. The seven police officers dispatched to his home to issue him an arrest warrant in connection with drug trafficking felt ” threat ” by the maneuvers of Mr. Brown’s vehicle, which was trying to leave the vacant lot next to his house. They will therefore not be prosecuted.

Before the announcement, Zena Jackson still hoped that justice would be done for her cousin. After this “Slap”, she belches. “They’re kidding us! Was this shit “justified”? But my cousin is dead! It was my blood! “, she says, her voice broken. On the white T-shirt she wears, like other family members, “Drew” s smile in Sunday best looks even sadder.

A Black Lives Matter protest in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on May 18, 2021.
A Black Lives Matter protest in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on May 18, 2021.
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More than three weeks after the death of Andrew Brown, this drama, unexpected in this small coastal town of 18,000 inhabitants, is not yet fully digested. In the popular district, where he had just settled, the mural painted on the white walls of his house a little askew reminds passers-by of “Say his name”, slogan chanted in the demonstrations of recent months in tribute to the black victims of police violence. Black Lives Matter signs dot the gardens and are displayed in the windows. More in the black districts than in front of the vast colonial houses with flowered terraces. The town, nestled at the bottom of a cove in the Pasquotank River, is more famous for its historically black university, and its calm bordering on boredom, than for its political activism. The marches, which have rallied several hundred people in recent weeks, went smoothly.

Anger back

A year after the death of George Floyd, who died below the knee of a white police officer, on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis (Minnesota), and the unprecedented demonstrations against racism and police violence, many believed that the same wave of indignation would sweep over this corner of North Carolina. But in Elizabeth City, the mobilization seems to have given way to a suppressed anger, to a sadness tinged with fatalism, to the conviction that justice does not pass everywhere in the same way.

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