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A bitter birthday amid a protest

By Odis Muhammad and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad | Last updated: May 12, 2020 - 11:15:37 AM

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BRUNSWICK, Ga.—Thousands turned up at the Glynn County Courthouse demanding justice for 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Mr. Arbery, who was Black, was killed after Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who are White, began chasing him and confronted him. The young Black man was unarmed. 

In a surveillance video released by lawyer Alan Tucker, Mr. Arbery tried to fight off one of the men holding a shotgun that went off several times. Mr. Arbery collapsed onto the street, two miles from his home outside Brunswick. 

The father and son were charged with murder and aggravated assault but not with a hate crime.

The May 8 gathering at Glynn County Courthouse was, in part, a celebration of Mr. Arbery’s birthday. A racially diverse crowd celebrated with a birthday song and a balloon release. Local leaders offered words of encouragement and warning.

“As president of this area (NAACP), I want to declare to you that the work is just beginning, that we can’t stop now, that we cannot lose focus. But we got to make sure a prosecution is done and after making sure a prosecution is done, we got to hold every official responsible and accountable to the fact that no arrest was made in the very beginning,” said John Perry of the Brunswick Chapter of the NAACP. 

Representatives from the ACLU, Georgia State Chapter of the NAACP, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1423, Georgia General Assembly and the Glynn County Sherriff’s Department addressed the crowd. 

“This is not a celebration, this is just a step in the right direction,” said Richard B. Nixon Jr. president of the ILA Local 1423. “I won’t be satisfied until everybody involved is convicted,” he continued. Mr. Nixon was referring to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrests the alleged murderers the night before the rally. The energized crowd vowed to see the case through to the end.

Pastor Tyrone Timmons of First Bryant Baptist Church said, “The thing that grates me when it comes to the murder of Black men is it’s usually swept under the rug. We need to come together. This should not be the only time. It does not need to stop here. So many are being killed. The criminals usually walk. The Black community must come together first. We will be respected if we show unity.”

Brenda Rogers, 13, said, “This was heartbreaking. It wasn’t right. There will be no peace until there is justice. I am glad the murderers were arrested.”

Regina Scott said what happened was unjust. “Big cover-ups happen all the time. Some officials are scared to speak up. We had to make them speak by marching. We forced their hand,” she said. 

Marquis Higginbotham, age 30, said, “He was cornered. This community came together as a whole. The legal system put our backs against the wall. Coming together brings peace.

Ahmaud’s life is an honor now. He brought a community together.”

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said May 8 at a news conference, “There’s no hate crime in Georgia. … We are going to go wherever the evidence takes us. In a perfect world, we would have preferred to have been asked to become involved in February of course.” Mr. Arbery was shot to death Feb. 23.

District Attorney Joyette Holmes was appointed for the case as a special prosecutor, replacing district attorney Tom Durden. Supporters of Mr. Arbery’s family took to social media to say a Black prosecutor wasn’t enough—justice is required.

“My heart sank seeing Joyette Holmes appointed to Ahmuad Arbery’s case. I have zero faith in her to do the right thing. Those White men are going to walk,” @SlumBeautiful predicted on Twitter.

“Just because a Prosecutor is Black don’t mean that they about Justice for Black People. However. I hope that Joyette Holmes, the new prosecutor on Ahmaud Arbery’s case, is about Justice. She’s a Black Republican and that alone got me wondering,” added @MamaSophia666.

 “All I know it is going to get really ugly if they do not get a first degree murder conviction,” wrote Angelita McGhee on Facebook.

“Let’s not get too excited until we see Convicted and sentenced to 20+ or the death penalty will be applied anything else is unacceptable,” commented Greg Powell.

At Final Call press time, supporters of Mr. Arbery said a second rally might take place May 16.

Yonasda Lonewolf, national director of the Indigenous Nations Alliance-Millions More Movement, said the Arbery shooting has shown again the true White American mindset.

“The whole thing right now is to get this D.A. out of office and make sure there is not bond going to be set,” she told The Final Call. She went to Brunswick for the May 8 protest.

“It’s 60 percent Black in Brunswick, Georgia but the 40 percent is whose controlling it, 40 percent White whose controlling it. So, it really goes down to them feeling, knowing, seeing Black unity, Black folks there. They need to feel and know that there is Black unity, they need to see and know that there is Black power,” she said.

—Odis Muhammad and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad