In his first months, Elizabeth City manager faces a major challenge on a national scale

At simply three months into his job as the highest administrator in Elizabeth City, Montre’ Freeman by no means anticipated he’d need to handle a scenario like this. And one within the national highlight, at that.

But that’s what Freeman, metropolis manager in Elizabeth City, has confronted previously week and a half, with lots of of protesters taking to the streets nightly after Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr., an unarmed Black man.

“As an African-American male, I’ve seen this enough, right?” Freeman stated in an interview with The News & Observer. “There’s always a possibility that this can happen. You don’t prepare mentally to lead a city through these things.

“And you hope and pray that you never have to.”

Coming from a household that additionally has marched and protested all through historical past, Freeman stated his method on this second has been to guard the protesters and Elizabeth City residents.

Elizabeth City metropolis manager Montré Freeman speaks throughout a press convention Saturday, April 24, 2021. Casey Toth [email protected]

Protesters have gathered close to the sheriff’s workplace downtown and marched for a number of hours across the metropolis every evening, chanting “20 seconds? Not enough!” That references a video clip of deputy body-cam footage that reveals Brown’s demise, however has not been released to the public.

Brown, an unarmed Black man, was killed lower than 24 hours after Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of the homicide of George Floyd.

A demonstrator protesting the police killing of Andrew Brown Jr.are arrested Tuesday, April 27, 2021 in downtown Elizabeth City. At least six protesters have been arrested when police in riot gear marched towards roughly a dozen protesters two hours previous curfew. Protesters have been peaceable however refused to clear the streets. Travis Long [email protected]

Protesters have pledged themselves to be peaceable, not wanting so as to add to the Brown household’s troubles in a small city the place so many individuals know one another. Though some storefronts are boarded-up alongside the major roads and downtown companies are nearly all closed, the nightly protests have introduced no vandalism or violence.

A curfew that was in place from 8 p.m. till 6 a.m. was shortened Friday. It’s now midnight till 6 a.m.

ECSU graduate comes residence

When Freeman took the job as metropolis manager of Elizabeth City earlier this yr, it was type of a homecoming. He performed soccer and ran observe at Elizabeth City State University, the traditionally Black college that’s a part of the UNC System.

Freeman stated to do that job, he combines his appreciation for the town that gave him a lot, with what he later realized in legislation college at N.C. Central, one other HBCU in Durham. There, he was mentored and educated by Durham County Manager Wendell Davis.

Freeman stated he additionally leans on a lesson his father taught him at age 12. He stated that when you need to make a determination, you’re both afraid otherwise you suppose your approach via it. Because your thoughts received’t allow you to do each.

“I just choose to think my way through it,” Freeman stated.

Freeman stated he’s on the cellphone with Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe day-after-day as early as 6 a.m. and as late as midnight speaking in regards to the evolving scenario.

They’re “watching the temperature” of the protests and assessing the curfew.

Freeman stated he welcomes the protests and respects folks’s First Amendment rights. And he’s pleased with how the protesters and native residents have maintained endurance and stayed peaceable and non-violent, he stated.

Part of that, he stated, is because of the relationships constructed via years of neighborhood policing efforts, led by Buffaloe.

Protesters block the US Highway 158 bridge over Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City, N.C. Tuesday night upfront of an 8pm curfew ordered by the town. Protests continued Tuesday following the capturing demise of Andrew Brown Jr. final week by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies. Travis Long [email protected]

Freeman additionally acknowledged the “de-escalation team” amongst protesters that retains issues underneath management when feelings are operating excessive.

“It’s imperative that they are able to encourage and, for lack of a better word, police each other to keep everybody focused on the matter at hand,” Freeman stated.

Freeman understands the place the protesters are coming from and why they’re on the market. He stated it “felt like yet another one” when Brown was shot and killed.

“The reality is this is a very emotional situation,” he stated. ”I really feel it.”

The price of protests

The first day of protests price the town about $5,000, and by final Sunday it was as much as $48,000, based on Freeman. Now, it’s round $100,000 for assets on the bottom to deal with the demonstrations. And that quantity is steadily climbing, he stated.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can to answer the call for the citizens and for the protesters and for the Brown family,” Freeman stated.

Nearly 100 police and Sheriff deputies in riot gear march on Water Street in downtown Elizabeth City, N.C. simply after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Five folks arrested for violation of an 8 p.m. curfew one week after Andrew Brown Jr.s demise by the hands of Pasquotank County deputies. Robert Willett [email protected]

Part of that cash is spent on time beyond regulation for officers, further tools and out of doors legislation enforcement companies coming to city to help the Elizabeth City police pressure of about 75 officers.

Freeman stated Chief Buffaloe requested again up from police departments throughout the state and a few have come from so far as Charlotte. The metropolis foots the invoice for these officers’ bills like lodging and meals.

The cash will come from taxpayer {dollars} via the town’s reserves and police funds, which can must be amended, Freeman stated. City officers will doubtless discuss via the related prices at funds and board conferences on Monday.

Freeman stated he’s involved as a result of they’re “stretched” financially, however they may preserve officers on the bottom so long as vital.

“You don’t plan a budget around civil unrest,” Freeman stated. “In the moment, we have to answer that call.”

Kate Murphy covers increased training for The News & Observer. Previously, she coated increased training for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the investigative and enterprise workforce and USA Today Network. Her work has received state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she or he was just lately named a 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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