Several people, 2 journalists arrested in Elizabeth City during Andrew Brown protests

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  • Andrew Brown
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Several people were arrested in Elizabeth City Wednesday night, including two journalists, the day after the Pasquotank District Attorney announced that deputies would not face criminal charges in the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. last month.

The two journalists work for the USA Today Network and were covering the protests, which have been held every day since April 21, when sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Brown while serving search and arrest warrants.

Tuesday, DA Andrew Womble said that Brown’s death “while tragic, was justified” because three deputies believed they needed to use deadly force to protect themselves and others, The News & Observer reported.

Wednesday night, William Ramsey, executive editor for USA TODAY Network’s Southeast Central region, identified the journalists as reporters Ayano Nagaishi and Alison Cutler.

“Our reporters were arrested tonight in #ElizabethCity NC while doing their First Amendment jobs,” Ramsey tweeted. “I’m incredulous. Watched it live. No explanation for this.”

At 10:45 p.m., he tweeted that the journalists had been released, but he had not spoken with them.

Nagaishi was live streaming the protests Wednesday night on Twitter. When Nagaishi and Cutler ask officers why they’re being detained, an officer responds because that they were standing in the middle of the roadway.

Both Nagaishi and Cutler are seen wearing bright yellow vests that say “News Media” and tell police at least eight times they work for USA Today and the Staunton News Leader. They identify themselves as journalists covering the event.

Elizabeth City police had declared the protest an unlawful assembly at 8:27 p.m., while the protesters were gathered at Elizabeth and Water streets. By 8:45 p.m., three additional warnings had been issued, according to the Elizabeth City Police Department’s Facebook page.

The Staunton-Leader said police had threatened to arrest protesters for “a law that prohibits standing, sitting or lying on a street or roadway.”

Nagaishi and Cutler briefly walk into Main Street to film and watch one of the arrests happening.

Nagaishi is heard on the video saying at least four people had been arrested when an officer comes toward her and says, “Come on, you too. Come this way.”

Moments later, after the reporters had retreated to a nearby curb, officers approached them.

After they were released, the journalists said they were less than a foot away from the curb in a crosswalk, The Staunton-Leader reported.

In her livestream, Nagaishi said a peaceful protest had started at the Pasquotank County public safety building around 6 p.m., with about 60 marchers looping through the city and chanting.

Nagaishi said the events started to “escalate” after a man climbed on top of a police car, with “more than 10” officers running at him and tackling him. While three officers tackled the man, other officers told the crowd to stay back, with some officers withdrawing their tasers.

By about 9:10 p.m., protesters had made their way to Elizabeth City’s police station, near the intersection of East Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. There, police started making additional arrests.

A Facebook Live video from Raleigh activist Kerwin Pittman also shows he was detained while he told officers he was bailing out those who had been arrested. Officers do not identify the charges for Pittman.

At 11:30 p.m. he said on Facebook that he had been released.

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