The white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbury as he ran down a residential street remained at large for more than two months, with police and prosecutors appearing to accept their story that the young black man was a fugitive criminal who turned and attacked before being fatally shot.
Two years after Arbury died on February 23, 2020, the trio responsible for the deadly chase saw that his version of events had been rejected in court. After two trials several months apart, the three men were convicted not only of murder but also of federal hate crimes.
Amid a national account of racial injustice in the criminal justice system, successive convictions have backed the Arbury family and local activists, who initially feared the killing could go unpunished right outside the Georgian port city of Brunswick.
“This shows that there is hope for our justice system,” said the Rev. John Perry, who was president of the NAACP branch in Brunswick when Arbury was assassinated. “I don’t think it’s an absolute change in the game.”
Activists are hoping for a similar outcome in Minneapolis, where jurors began discussing the federal trial on Wednesday against three fired police officers accused of violating George Floyd’s civil rights. Floyd, a black man, died on May 25, 2020, when then-officer Derek Chauvin pressed him to the ground and pressed a knee to his neck for, according to authorities, 9 1/2 minutes.
Arbury’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, attended an event to commemorate her son on the second anniversary of his death Wednesday in Atlanta, where U.S. lawmakers passed a resolution declaring February 23 Ahmoud Arbury Day in Georgia.
“When we hear the name of Ahmaud Arbury, we will now hear and think about change,” Cooper-Jones told the audience.
About 50 supporters joined one of Arbury’s aunts, Thea Brooks, on Wednesday night in a march through the Satilla Shores unit, where Arbury was killed less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from his home. They chanted, “I’m running away with Maud!” – a phrase that became a family cry after his death.
Shanesha Salins walked to the back of the group. Her mother and Arbury’s mother worked together, she said, and Arbury often ran past his home nearby.
“I hope this is a lesson for many Southerners,” Salins said of the verdicts, although she was not sure if they signaled lasting change. “This is the beginning. But once the lights go out and everyone returns to their normal lives, the system is still broken.
Arbury had enrolled in technical college and was preparing to study electrical engineering, like his uncles when he was killed when he was 25. His parents stopped calling the hate crimes verdicts handed down by the jury on Tuesday a victory, noting the sentences will not bring back their son.
Yet many in Brunswick and around Glyn County, a community of nearly 85,000 where black people make up 26 percent of the population, see the Arbury murder trial as a test of the judiciary and an opportunity to confront what they see. as outright racism.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbury after they spotted him running past their home on Sunday afternoon. Neighbor William “Roddy” Brian joined the chase in his own truck and recorded a video on Travis McMichael’s cell phone that blew up Arbury with a rifle.
Despite the men’s suspicions that Arbury was a criminal, investigators found no evidence that he stole anything or committed other crimes in the neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified at the murder trial that he opened fire in self-defense after Arbury attacked with his fists.
Evidence in the week-long hate crime trial includes approximately two dozen text messages and social media posts in which men use racist insults and otherwise ignore blacks. Brian mocked Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday and reacted bitterly when he learned that his daughter was dating a black man. Travis McMichael complained that blacks were “ruining everything” and commented on a video showing a black man joking with a white man: “I’m going to kill this devil.
Travis Riddle owns a soul food restaurant in Brunswick, where a picture hangs on the wall in the frame of the sheriff who arrested Greg McMichael in May 2020. Riddle, who is Black, said he hopes to reveal the racism supported by McMichaels and Brian will made like-minded others hesitant to share their views.
“There are other people who think that what they have done is right, but with the outcome of this case, they will suppress these thoughts and actions,” Riddle said. “Brunswick has shown them twice that we are not with that.”
The court battles are not over. Former District Attorney Jackie Johnson, ousted in 2020 by voters who blamed her for delayed arrests in the Arbury case, was charged last year with misconduct, claiming she used her office to protect the McMichael family.
Greg McMichael worked for Johnson as an investigator and left her a phone call after the shooting. Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, insisting she immediately turned the case over to a foreign prosecutor. Her case is pending in the Glyn County Supreme Court.
“There was a serious breakdown in our system that allowed a young man’s life to be robbed,” said Perry, a former NAACP leader. “Our system has failed to make an arrest. The responsibility is somewhere, and I think this investigation is an honest attempt to find out where the damage happened. “
Activists in Brunswick are also pushing for reforms in the Glyn County Police Department. His investigation into Arbury’s death continued until May 2020, when a graphic video of the shooting leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.
District commissioners hired the department’s first black police chief last summer after agreeing to a national search. A Better Glynn, a local group set up after Arbury’s death to promote racial and socioeconomic justice, pressured officials to look for candidates outside Georgia.
The group is still calling on commissioners to set up a civilian review board for the police department, a proposal that has not been made in the past year.
“We don’t have to be here, changing a lot of hearts,” said Elijah Bobby Henderson, one of the group’s founders, “but we’re going to change a lot of policies.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s hometown hopes for change after convictions – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link Ahmaud Arbery’s hometown hopes for change after convictions – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel