By Micha Green
The world bore witness to the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, as he went for a jog and eventually had to run for his life when three racist, vigilantes chose fatal violence after allegedly assuming he was part of a string of burglaries in the Brunswick neighborhood of South Georgia. On Nov. 24, the three vigilantes, 35-year-old Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and neighbor, William Bryan, 52, were all found guilty of murder and face life sentences in prison.
Thirty-five year old McMichael, who pulled the trigger, was found guilty on all nine counts in the murder of Arbery, the 65-year-old McMichael was convicted on eight out of nine counts and the jury found Bryan guilty of six of nine charges.
For many, the sight of Arbery’s murder on February 23, 2020, which was captured on video, was a reminder that there is still so much work to be done in the fight for racial equity. However, others contend the guilty charge is a moment to celebrate justice and a sign of hope that change is on its way.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country. Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished,” President Joseph Biden wrote in a statement after the verdict was delivered.`
“The verdict in the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery is long overdue. Ahmaud Arbery’s death was unnecessary and fueled by racist ideologies deeply ingrained into the fabric of this nation. Generations of Black people have seen this time and time again, with the murder of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and many others. The actions and events perpetrated by the McMichaels and William Bryan leading up to Ahmaud’s death reflect a growing and deepening rift in America that will be its undoing if not addressed on a systemic level. We must fix what is genuinely harming our nation: white supremacy. To address and begin to repair the harm and trauma caused by centuries of racism, violence, and murder, we need stronger federal and state actions to address and eliminate outdated racist policies, like citizens’ arrest,” the NAACP wrote in a statement sent to the AFRO.
“Although we still grieve the senseless murder of Ahmaud, today, we stand in solidarity with the family and Brunswick community and celebrate the guilty verdict that will bring some comfort and sense of justice to Mr. Arbery’s family, friends, and community,” the NAACP continued.
JUSTGeorgia, which was formed after Arbery’s murder with other justice organizations as a means to move “local and statewide demands, advise national organizations and strengthen social movements both in Southeast Georgia and throughout the State,” also celebrated in the guilty verdict.
“We pause to take a collective breath with the loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery in the wake of the convictions of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William ‘Roddy’ Bryan. This tragedy captured the world’s attention only because of the courageous and persistent efforts of Mr. Arbery’s family and the local Brunswick community. JUSTGeorgia remains committed to supporting the family and community #BeyondTheVerdict to ensure that Ahmaud’s legacy is true transformative change in the Brunswick community, across Georgia, and throughout this country.”
Similarly to the JUSTGeorgia hashtag, #BeyondTheVerdict, despite the celebration of justice, President Biden reminded all Americans that the social justice fight continues.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin,” Biden said. “My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.”
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