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Rayshard Brooks Laid To Rest In Atlanta


In Atlanta today, people gathered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church for the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, the Black man shot and killed by police on June 12. The Reverend Bernice King called the occasion an all-too-familiar moment, celebrating the life of a Black person cut short after an interaction with law enforcement. Brooks had fallen asleep in a Wendy's drive-through. After a DUI test and then a scuffle with officers, he grabbed a taser, ran, then fired it. A pursuing officer shot him in the back. That officer now faces a felony murder charge. We're joined by Emily Green of member station WABE in Atlanta.

Hi, Emily.


SHAPIRO: Tell us about what you saw at the church today.

GREEN: So the service was held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. And that's a well-known church in Atlanta, perhaps across the country, because it's where Dr. Martin Luther King once preached. And entry was limited to family and friends. It was about half-full, if that, because of fears of COVID. Everybody wore masks. And many of the family members, including Brooks' widow Tomika, were dressed in white. And it was kind of a symbol of peace and also celebration of Brooks' life. At the same time, the service was projected outside on a Jumbotron. And about 100 people showed up - mostly Black people - to grieve and to celebrate Brooks' life.

SHAPIRO: We haven't actually heard a lot about Brooks' life. His killing came in the midst of widespread protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. What did you hear today about who Rayshard Brooks was?

GREEN: That's right. I think his identity has been kind of lost in the bigger movement. And friends and family members described him as generous, kind, fun-loving, even kind of goofy. And here's his friend, Ambrea Mikolajczyk.


AMBREA MIKOLAJCZYK: Ray wore steel cowboy boots to work. The guys would listen to music while they worked. If "Old Town Road" came on, you can forget it. Ray would bust out all types of moves.

GREEN: And she also said that Mr. Brooks, he got stuck kind of in the machinery of the criminal justice system and a probation system that made it really difficult for him to get back on his feet.

SHAPIRO: This funeral comes as a lot of attention is being paid to the Black Lives Matter movement. What role did that play today?

GREEN: It was a major backdrop to the funeral. The senior pastor at Ebenezer said Brooks' killing, along with that of George Floyd, highlights the relationship that many Black people have with the police. And by that, I mean that people that run, like Rayshard Brooks, they're shot. But, also, George Floyd, he didn't run, and he was also killed. And, you know, this is a tension. How do we protect ourselves? And Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. King, she spoke very movingly about this moment in history. She encouraged people to continue to take to the streets.


BERNICE KING: We are here because individuals continue to hide behind badges and trainings and policies and procedures rather than regarding the humanity of others in general and Black lives specifically.

GREEN: And like many of the speakers, she encouraged nonviolence in this movement.

SHAPIRO: That is reporter Emily Green of member station WABE in Atlanta.

Thank you, Emily.

GREEN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Green (WABE)