UPDATED: 11:39 a.m. ET, May 7 —
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus has joined the call for the grand jury process to be expedited over the shooting death of an unarmed Black man jogging by two white men in a rural part of the state in February. Ahmaud Arbery was killed in broad daylight during a purported citizen’s arrest by a father and son who chased him down in the city of Brunswick because they said they suspected he was a burglar. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael have thus far avoided arrest and charges because of the state’s citizen’s arrest law.
Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey reportedly suggested Wednesday night it was “possible an emergency order to assemble a grand jury to hear the case is being considered.” On Thursday, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus demanded that possibility become fact.
“We are saddened and angry about this wanton display of violence against an innocent man whose only crime was jogging while black,” Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Chair state Rep. Karen Bennett said in a statement. “In 2020, our state and our country has yet to reconcile with the vestiges of racism. At a time when we are uniting to fight against a global pandemic, another disease rears its head to again take an innocent life. First, our condolences go out to the family of the innocent victim, Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, whose rights as an American to exercise were violently taken from him.”
Read the full statement by clicking here.
City commissioners in rural Georgia suggested Wednesday night that special measures could be taken to expedite convening a grand jury for the apparent lynching death of a young Black man who was killed while jogging after two white men hunted him down and shot him to death earlier this year. The disclosure came during a Brunswick city commission meeting online as pressure was mounting for there to be some accountability in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in broad daylight in February was shown on the recently released video of the shooting.
The state’s courts were scheduled to remain closed for the next month after Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton on Monday extended the Statewide Judicial Emergency until June 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Brunswick News reported that Mayor Cornell Harvey suggested it was “possible an emergency order to assemble a grand jury to hear the case is being considered.”
Harvey said that he and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp “want justice served,” but it’s debatable whether there would have even been a consideration for a grand jury unless someone hadn’t leaked the footage of Arbery’s shooting on Tuesday. The two men involved in the shooting — Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael — have thus far been protected by the state’s law for citizen’s arrests.
The McMichaels claimed they recognized Arbery as a burglar when they saw him running. They grabbed a .357 magnum revolver and a shotgun, hopped into a truck, followed him and shot him to death. Complicating matters is the fact that Gregory McMichael is a retired investigator in the office of a district attorney who previously recused himself from the case, prompting speculation that he and his son have been afforded special privileges to avoid charges and being arrested.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation joined the case on Wednesday as protesters demonstrated and public outcry grew. NBA superstar LeBron James lent his voice to the chorus of anger in a poignant Instagram post he dedicated to Arbery, who was only 25 when he was killed.
“We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes! Can’t even go for a damn jog man! Like WTF man are you kidding me?!?!?!?!?!?” he wrote before continuing later. “I’m sorry Ahmaud(Rest In Paradise) and my prayers and blessings sent to the heavens above to your family!!”
Ironically, Congress moved closer to making lynching a federal crime just about the same time that Arbery was killed. If a grand jury does return an indictment against one of both of the McMichaels, it’s unclear if hate crime charges would apply since President Trump has not yet signed the proposed legislation into law. it into law.
Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s family, said the McMichaels killed Arbery “because they are racist. They should be in jail facing life without the possibility of parole.”
Merritt also called Arbery’s killing a “lynching” carried out with no shame.
“These men were not performing any police function or any duty as citizens of Georgia…these men were vigilantes, they were a posse they were performing a lynching in the middle of the day,” Merritt said.
An online petition has been started “to demand justice for Ahmaud right away.”