Manchin, Sinema phone numbers read aloud on live TV as activists step up pressure
Lawyer and political analyst Bakari Sellers read out the phone numbers of centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) during a Monday press conference carried live on cable television, seeking to pressure them to back the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The legislation would implement sweeping law enforcement reform across the country. Sellers and other supporters see it as a key next step in the fight against police violence.
The effort came as Sellers and other civil rights advocates, including attorney Ben Crump, were on the ground in Elizabeth City, N.C., in an attempt to pressure the county sheriff’s office to release body camera footage of deputies shooting and killing Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man.
“I want us to destroy the system that keeps putting us in situations like this,” Sellers, a former Democratic South Carolina state representative, told the crowd outside of the department.
“I want each and every one of you all to take out your phones right now and I want you to Google the numbers of Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin,” Sellers continued. “I want you to call them and ask them why they [have] not signed on to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”
While the bill passed the House in March, it has stalled in the Senate, where it faces the filibuster and the middling support of Manchin and Sinema.
Moments later, Sellers read out the phone numbers of the senators’ offices in Washington, D.C.
Brown was killed by police last Wednesday during the execution of a search warrant.
His death came just a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd last May.
The Associated Press on Monday reported the deputies had obtained the warrant after Brown had sold small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine to a police informant on multiple occasions back in March.
According to the document, investigators believed that Brown had been storing the drugs inside either his Elizabeth City home or a pair of vehicles.
The deputies also reportedly had two arrest warrants for Brown on drug-related charges. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten has said that multiple deputies discharged their firearms at the scene. All seven of the deputies that were present are on leave while the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation looks into Brown’s killing.
Eyewitnesses have claimed Brown attempted to get in his car and drive away. Brown was then shot multiple times. However, body camera footage of the fatal incident has yet to be released.
Wooten said in a videotaped statement over the weekend that his office didn’t have the power to release the footage to the public.
Under North Carolina law, police body camera footage can only be released with a court order, but it does permit the video to be shown privately to a victim’s family.
The sheriff’s office — separate from the city’s police department — and local officials both signaled they’d be filing for public release of the footage as early as Monday.
Brown’s family was supposed to view the video at 11:30 a.m. local time, but that has been delayed while officials work on blurring out people’s faces so as to not interfere with the ongoing investigation.
“It’s so very important that we have transparency, because if we don’t have transparency, we can never get to accountability, and if we never get to accountability, we can get to healing and trust,” Crump, who has represented the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake, said.
“What is it on this video that is so damning that you would risk your career and risk losing your job so the people can’t see the video? What is it?” he asked.
Earlier on Monday, Elizabeth City officials declared an official state of emergency ahead of anticipated protests and unrest over the footage.
–Updated at 2:14 p.m.