BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Justice for Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed during a pursuit by a white man and his son in Georgia, isn’t just prison time for his killers — it’s changes in a local justice system that never charged them with a crime, rallygoers said Saturday.
Hundreds of people came to the Glynn County courthouse demanding accountability for a case in which charges weren’t filed until state officials stepped in after a leaked video sparked national outrage.
Arbery, 25, was killed Feb. 23 just outside the port city of Brunswick. Gregory McMichael, 64, told police he and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, pursued Arbery because they believed he was responsible for recent break-ins in the neighbourhood.
The McMichaels weren’t arrested and charged with murder until May 7, after a video of the shooting was publicly released to a local radio station and less than 48 hours after state agents took over the case.
“Justice for Ahmaud is more than just the arrests of his killers,” said John Perry, president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter at the Saturday rally. “Justice is saying that we’ve got to clean up the house of Glynn County.”
Speakers at the rally demanded the resignation of Jackie Johnson, the district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit who recused herself from the investigation. Gregory McMichael was an investigator in Johnson’s office before retiring last May.
Organizers of the rally said around 250 vehicles drove more than four hours from Atlanta for the rally, bringing historically black fraternities and sororities, civil rights organizations and black-led gun rights groups, who said if Arbery had armed himself, he might be alive today.
Attorney Mawuli Davis came from his suburban Atlanta home because he wanted to make it clear how many people are not satisfied with how the Arbery case has been handled.
“Georgians are just not safe when you allow an injustice like this to take place,” said Davis, who is an organizer with the Black Man Lab in Decatur, Georgia.
The case has brought reminders of several other black people killed in confrontations with white police officers or others and the names of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and others were mentioned during the rally.
“We’re going to keep on marching. We’re going to stand in solidarity. We’re going to keep on protesting. We’re going to keep on raising our voices because Ahmaud Arbery will get justice, said Triana Arnold James, president of the Georgia chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Organizers asked the crowd to wear masks and stay a safe distance apart because of COVID-19. There were plenty of masks — some with Arbery’s picture — but many in the crowd were shoulder to shoulder for the rally and marched with arms locked after it was over.