NC city where Andrew Brown Jr. was killed backs BLM mural near public safety building


Dorothy Langston of Elizabeth City, N..C., carries her Black Lives Matter flag during a press conference at the Pasquotank Public Safety Building on Friday, May 21, 2021.

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A Black Lives Matter mural could be painted outside a public safety building in the town where North Carolina deputies shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr.

During a City Council meeting on Monday, elected leaders in Elizabeth City voted 5-1 to task the city manager with finding someone to create street art on the pavement.

Council members approved seeking an artist to paint “Black Lives Matter” along Colonial Avenue, video of the meeting showed. The area includes a stretch outside a public safety building, which houses the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office, City Manager Montré Freeman told McClatchy News on Tuesday.

Brown, a 42-year-old Black man, was living in Elizabeth City on April 21 when Pasquotank sheriff’s deputies came to his home to serve warrants. As he tried to leave in a car, officials fired on Brown and killed him.

Last week, District Attorney Andrew Womble said Brown’s death was justified and that the deputies involved in the fatal shooting wouldn’t face criminal charges, The News & Observer reported. The decision sparked renewed outrage in a year that has seen calls for justice and police reform.

Brown was killed the day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on murder charges in the May 2020 death of another Black man, George Floyd. Video from some of the final moments of Floyd’s life showed Chauvin kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.

“When this tragedy happened, all across different states, different councils, mayors, governing bodies said: We are going to send our message that Black lives matter,” Elizabeth City council member Darius Horton said during Monday’s meeting.

He told council members he wanted the city to join places across the country that have added street art with the words Black Lives Matter.

“Right now the Black community, Black lives are under attack,” Horton said. “So madam mayor when I say us supporting the Black lives movement, it has nothing to do to downgrade … any other lives.”

After Floyd’s death, similar murals have been added to streets across North Carolina, including in Charlotte and Fayetteville. Another that was painted in Raleigh included the words “End Racism Now.”

But the road hasn’t always been smooth. In Wilmington, a City Council member in July called a proposed Black Lives Matter mural “racist” and suggested that it would be more appropriate to have a message that all lives matter. And in Greenville, concerns about politics led officials in November to change the language of a potential art project to “Unite Against Racism.”

In Elizabeth City, the lone “no” vote for the Black Lives Matter mural came from council member Jeannie Young, who said she hasn’t backed putting names on buildings because it opens a “Pandora’s box.” Councilman Billy Caudle didn’t attend the meeting, WAVY reported.

Freeman said he planned to search for artists and didn’t have an estimated cost or design for the street art as of Tuesday.

Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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