Since the first conviction was handed down in the Georgia courtroom, a cascade of tears and cries of defense has swept across the country. Black parents called their children, crying. The activists choked on what they called a rare act of justice.
In a racially divisive country, weapons and vigilante violence have recently been showcased in courtrooms from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Charlottesville, Virginia, to Brunswick, Georgia, convictions handed down Wednesday to three white men The pursued and murdered Ahmaud Arbury was greeted by political leaders and many Americans across the political spectrum.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said he hoped the sentences would help the country “move forward on the path of healing and reconciliation.” President Biden said the verdict showed that “the justice system is doing its job,” but said the murder of Mr. Arbury and the chilling video recording it was a measure of persistent racial inequality in the country.
The widespread outcry in support of the jury’s verdict over what some activists have called 21st century lynching contrasted sharply with the deeply polarized reaction to the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old who fatally shot two people during the riots. in Kenosha after police shot and killed a black man last year.
Many conservatives took Mr. Rittenhouse’s acquittal last week as a victory for self-defense and gun rights, while liberals feared it would foster armed vigilance in response to protests against racial justice.
“The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is the America I’m counting on. The Arbury verdict is America I’m fighting for, ”said the Reverend Lenny Duncan, 43, a black pastor from Portland, Oregon who has participated in many of the demonstrations that shook the city. last year after the assassinations of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans.
Conviction of all three accused of the February 2020 murder of Mr. Arbury – Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their 52-year-old neighbor, William Brian, provoked little reproach or protest.
Travis McMichael’s lawyers told reporters that they respect the jury’s decision, but plan to appeal the verdict, which they described as “disappointing and sad.”
“This is a very difficult day for Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael,” said Jason Sheffield, one of the attorneys, adding that both of them “truly believe that what they are doing was right.”
The men are also facing federal hate crime charges and are expected to stand trial in February.
The verdict came as a relief for some black Americans who watched the trial with sadness and fear. Many hoped for a guilty verdict urgently, but feared that the vast majority of white jurors would side with the defense lawyers, who portrayed the three white defendants as neighbors troubled by a string of crimes in their area as they rushed to chase Mr. Arbury as he ran out into the street.
“Thank God for the verdict handed down today,” said Warren Stewart Jr., a black priest and political activist from Phoenix. “I started calling a few friends and they were crying on the phone. It’s bittersweet. Having two black sons is scary. This is real life for us. “
Mr Stuart’s 18-year-old son Micah followed the trial closely as the family tried to balance their hopes and prayers for a conviction against a long history of high-profile murders of black men and women that were deemed justified by the legal system.
“Too often it gets away with it,” Micah Stewart said. He said that the murder of Mr. Arbury on a public street seemed to confirm his own fears of simply going out as a young black man in the United States.
Some black Americans said the trial was a major test for their undermined confidence in the legal system. They said the video showing an unarmed black man being chased, cornered and shot to death left them no doubt that Mr. Arbury’s death was murder.
“We look forward to the day when a racist lynches a person, it won’t be a matter of murder,” said Hawk Newsom, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, who called the conviction “partial”. victory “.
Mr Newsom said the convictions for the murder of Mr Arbury, compared with Mr Rittenhouse’s acquittal of the shooting of three white men protesting the police shooting a black man, constituted a “mixed message.”
“You cannot immediately persecute and kill blacks and those who support them,” he said. “But if you make it look like self-defense, you have a chance.”
In Atlanta, Chris Stewart, a lawyer representing several black families killed by white police, held back tears as he contemplated the Georgia sentence.
“It’s great to see racism losing out,” said Mr. Stewart, whose clients included the family of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man who was shot in the back by South Carolina police in 2015. “This incident will be remembered for many years. It is impossible to overestimate how great it is. “
Understand the murder of Ahmaud Arbury
Shooting. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbury, a 25-year-old black man, was gunned down after being chased by three white men while jogging outside his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Georgia. The murder of Mr. Arbury was captured in a graphic video that was widely viewed by the public.
Mr. Stewart said that if the verdict was different, “it would break me – I would lose faith in the system.” He said the jury’s decision “shows African Americans that justice is possible.”
But only sometimes, many said. The three defendants were arrested only weeks after the shooting, and it was only on one occasion that video of the last moments of Mr. Arbury’s life sparked outrage and anger across the country.
“They had no choice but to judge them,” Wilbert Dawson, 68, said as he and a friend sat at Dugan’s restaurant and bar in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, contemplating the verdict.
“But without video, none of this happens,” said his friend, 64-year-old Curtis Duren. If these people were acquitted, “there would be such an uprising,” said Mr. Duren. “It would destroy the moral fabric of America.”
In Brunswick, local authorities and activists mostly announced the verdict. Allen Booker, the city commissioner representing the majority of Brunswick’s black residents, said he was very happy for Mr. Arbury’s family, admitting that nothing could bring Mr. Arbury back.
Bobby Henderson, co-founder of A Better Glynn, a local organization formed after Mr. Arbury’s death to create more diversity in local leadership, said he was pleased that Mr. Arbury’s family had been given responsibility, but that more work was needed. it was necessary to “fight the system that failed Ahmad that day.”
The Brunswick courthouse, where the trial unfolded, became the scene of tearful celebration.
Outside, where activists and supporters of Mr. Arbury hugged, cried and shook hands in victory, John Howard, 60, a white man from Hazlehurst, Georgia, said that justice had been done.
He called the murder “lynching.” Mr Howard said that as a young man, race relations seemed to be better. He grew up in the countryside and called his black elders “uncles” and “aunties.” The gap is deeper now, he said, but it seemed like people were coming together to protest against injustice. “Black and white citizens are fed up with this,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Tehavanza Brooks, Mr. Arbury’s aunt, said “Thank God” as the judge read out each conviction. Another aunt of Mr. Arbury, Diane Arbury Jackson, simply said, “This is amazing.”
Both were in tears. The day was emotional, with family members crying as the video of Mr. Arbury’s murder was shown in front of the jury that morning. At various times during the discussion, those gathered in a crowded room prayed together for a conviction.
When the judge finished announcing the verdict, the people in the courtroom raised their fists. Mr. Arbury’s best childhood friend, Akim Baker, remained silent as the verdict was announced. His head was bowed and his eyes were red with tears. “I feel better,” he said.
The report was provided Rick Rojas, Sergio Olmos, Nate Schweber, Robert Chiarito, Ana Fazio-Kreiser and Christian Boone.