ELIZABETH CITY, NK (AP) – The trial for the murder of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin ended when Daquon Gibbs told a friend that the murder of George Floyd – and the like – would never happen in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
“I said, ‘We live in a city that’s too small; we are a small community, “said Gibbs, 22.” And two days later it happened. I thought wrong. I thought very wrong. ”
The fatal shooting Andrew Brown Jr. of sheriff’s deputies sent shockwaves through this small, majority black town in the northeast corner of the state. Although prominent in 1
That changed when Brown, 42, was shot dead by the deputy sheriff of Pasquotank County, serving a search and arrest warrant at his home on April 21. Brown, who was Black, was behind the wheel of his car when he was shot five times, including in the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy ordered by his family.
The footage from the police cameras has not yet been published or shown in full to the Brown family. And the shooting sparked peaceful protests every night, with protesters demanding the release of the video and police reform. Numerous police teams and television cameras descended on the river bank in the city center.
“We see that all these things are happening all over the world, but we never thought that something like this would happen in our city,” Municipal Council member Gabriel Adkins said during an emergency meeting convened after the shooting.
“And people are afraid. … They are afraid that, you know, the riots will start, “Adkins said.
Surrounded by miles of oceanic flat farmland, Elizabeth City is an old-fashioned urban center for a relatively isolated region. The economy is largely backed by a large U.S. Coast Guard base that often has rescue missions in the nearby Atlantic. It also houses Elizabeth City State University, a historic black university founded in 1891. However, more than one in five people live in poverty in the city.
The city is about an hour’s drive from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, as well as from the tourist outside banks of North Carolina. But this is not a place that many people drive through – or have heard of.
“I’m sorry it’s the first time many people have heard of Elizabeth City,” said Melissa Stucky, a professor of history at the university. “Because this is a place where blacks have been fighting for freedom for many decades.”
The city is located on the river Pasquotank and originated in the 19th century due to its proximity to the Great Swamp. Cypress and cedar trees were registered for their rot-resistant timber and turned into ship masts and fence posts. Enslaved Americans were assigned to work there. But the swamp was also a place where they sought refuge after escaping from slavery.
During the Civil War, black troops marched on Elizabeth City after President Abraham Lincoln allowed African Americans to enroll. They took part in raids that liberated nearby plantations.
By the 1940s, the city boasted a strong black business community. In the 1960s, Elizabeth City residents – and university students – worked to desegregate businesses in the region, many of whom were arrested.
“In many ways, I see what’s happening on our streets today as part of a longer history of black freedom struggles in the region and in the United States,” Stucky said. “And this is a difficult time. But this is a moment we can draw from the past to take heart to what people are doing on the street right now. ”
Linwood Gallop, a 52-year-old electrician, has been involved in every protest since the day Brown was killed. He grew up in the same neighborhood where Brown was shot, catching a school bus on the corner and buying nickel candy from a nearby store.
Although Gallop only knows Brown in passing, he rejects any suggestion from the authorities that the shooting was justified. The city is galvanized, he said, because it is so closely connected.
“They are trying to criminalize us. But we know each other. “It’s too personal,” Gallop said. That’s why it doesn’t work here.
Gallop also pointed out that county sheriff’s deputies working as part of a drug group shot Brown, not the city police.
“I can’t think of a police officer shooting someone after 30 years here – we’re not used to that happening here,” Gallop said. “If we don’t know you, we know someone who knows you. We can literally call someone and say, “Hey, man, the police are looking for you. Go to the center.
Ernest Banks, 65, who owns a shoe repair shop in the center, also took part in many of the protests.
“We can still maintain that,” he said. “It’s not going to die.”