The following remarks were delivered by the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director, at the Elizabeth City Solidarity Rally in Raleigh on June 1st, 2021. To watch the full video of the rally, click here.
When mobs were roaming the streets of Rome ruling through violence, the philosopher Cicero said, “Laws are silent amidst the clash of arms.” But we have just the opposite in N.C. It is our laws that help maintain the silence.
We have a law that says law enforcement body camera footage cannot be released unless a judge says so. Instead of seeing what really happened in Elizabeth City the day Andrew Brown, Jr., was killed, the law allows the judge to keep us from seeing the truth. Why wouldn’t you want to show what happened, unless what happened is, in fact, against the law?
We have another law that says there can be no outside investigation in a case unless the District Attorney requests it, even a case that involves law enforcement killing someone. Instead of finding out what really happened, the law allows the district attorney to tell the story. That’s a lot of power for someone who generally works on the same team as law enforcement. It takes a brave district attorney to ask someone else to look into the situation and see if everybody on the team is abiding by the law.
The laws, in fact, are working exactly as intended by those who wrote them. The laws are keeping the truth silent. But that’s why we’re here. To make some noise and bring the truth to light. To say to the judge, show the video, the whole video, so that we can see the truth. To say to the district attorney, let someone else investigate this case, so they can tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
There’s a great line from Shakespeare where Hamlet says: “Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.” It may take us making a lot of noise before the foul deeds in Elizabeth City rise to our eyes. But we will keep making noise.
Now that I’ve quoted philosophers and playwrights, let me leave you with a quote from the Bible. Proverbs says: “A truthful witness saves lives, . . .” We’re going to keep making noise, friends, until we get a truthful witness. We’re going to keep making noise as long as these laws keep silent. Let’s make some noise.