NC Gov. Cooper meets with Pasquotank NAACP to address safety concerns for local protestors

North Carolina

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Demonstrators in Elizabeth City say they are receiving threats following a recent, public social media post by the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office.

The latest follows as demonstrators continue to protest seeking justice and transparency for the death of Andrew Brown Jr. back in April.

On Friday, Sheriff Wooten posted a press release on social media detailing an alleged “filing of a false police report” regarding several residents in Elizabeth City.

The sheriff’s office stated that they initially received reports of residents being harassed and threatened on social media.

In the mobile screenshots and images provided by the sheriff’s office, the complainants claimed that a person posted their names on Facebook and another individual commented on the said post with the phrase “We have their names, let’s get them.”

However, after further investigation from the sheriff’s office, they say the complainants provided “an inaccurate representation of the Facebook post.”

The full phrase originally stated, “we have their names, let’s get them fired instead.”

Following further investigation, the sheriff’s office issued the complainants with criminal summons for filing a false police report.

On June 25, the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office posted the press release of the incident along with the names and information of the complainants on social media.

Following the social media post, Pasquotank NAACP President Keith Rivers stated that protestors who’ve filed the complaint are now receiving threats.

On Sunday, North Carolina Gov. Cooper attended service at Mount Lebanon Zion Church in Elizabeth City to address concerns presented by the NAACP. After the service, the governor along with local officials including Attorney General Josh Stein held a news conference followed by a march that began from the church.

“We wanted to come here today to make sure that people knew that we’re doing everything we can to make the right kind of changes in our laws and in our training so we can avoid these kind of incidents,” said Gov. Cooper. “It’s important for voices to be heard.”

Attorney General Stein added the importance of trust in the community.

“For us to have real public safety, there has to be trust between the police and the people they serve, and right now we feel that that trust is not as strong as it should be here,” said Stein.

The governor has previously shown support for the immediate release of the body cam footage in connection with Brown’s death at the hands of Pasquotank County deputies.

“We wanted to make sure that the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Department heard what the Governor is saying and the Attorney General,” said Keith Rivers the President of the Pasquotank County NAACP. “So yes, them coming today did make a presence.”

“Right now, we feel like that trust is not as strong as it should be here in Elizabeth City” added Attorney General Josh Stein. “And so we met with some folks, some local leaders who came to Raleigh and asked us to come and have fellowship with them.”

Just days before the social media posts, the Pasquotank sheriff says his department will no longer assist city police with managing the protests.

Sheriff Tommy Wooten II released a statement on June 23 saying Elizabeth City’s continued issuance of permits for demonstrations has “allowed and encouraged daily protests by a very small group of our community to hinder the lives of our citizens.”

Wooten, who was elected in 2018, said it is law enforcement’s duty to ensure and protect people’s constitutional rights. However, he does not believe the First Amendment’s protection of the right to peaceably assemble includes allowing people to block roadways.

The sheriff’s decision to pull back went on effect Saturday, June 26.

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