KINGSLAND, Ga. – About a dozen people briefly blocked part of Highway 40 in Camden County on Thursday to protest the acquittal of Zechariah Presley.
Friends and family of Tony Green, 33, held signs demanding justice and voiced their anger with the verdict in the trial of Presley, the former Kingsland police officer who shot and killed Green during a traffic stop in June 2018.
After 20 hours of deliberations, a jury found Presley not guilty of both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Green, but convicted Presley of violating his oath of office. Presley faces up to five years in prison.
Many of the protesters had been in court during the trial last week.
"We don’t want them just to brush this under the rug. We want to let them know that we’re standing here with the Green family," Peter Anderson said. "We need to interrupt people's conformability because if you're comfortable right now, you shouldn’t be comfortable. You should be upset that justice wasn’t served. Injustice for one person is an injustice for all, so we need to stand together."
Protesters, who said they just want justice for Green, gathered Thursday morning on Highway 40, off Interstate 95, for about five minutes, blocking traffic, and then began chanting while holding signs. At one point, a Kingsland police officer came out to ask protesters to get off the roadway since they were blocking traffic at the intersection.
"We’ve heard about it and we’ve seen it throughout the country, but to actually feel it here in Camden County, to have the emotions to it and sit through the trial and feel what the family was going through -- it was really overwhelming," said Timothy Bessent Sr., a friend of the Green family.
Protesters said they're unhappy with Presley's acquittal, as well as the injustices of unarmed black men being killed by officers around the country and getting acquitted or receiving a lighter sentence.
"We want to make sure that the public does not forget Tony Green or the injustice that took place in the courtroom. We’re dealing with something that’s systemic when it comes to black people being shot by unarmed black people being shot by police officers," said Diallo Sekou, chairman of the Kemetic Empire.
Family and friends said they will be holding an emergency town hall meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday on South 50th Street in Kingsland.
"Until we can get this city, until we can get enough people to change policies that affect or that can have a direct effect on our community, we’re going to have to continue to these actions against social injustices," Sekou said.
Both sides were dissatisfied with the verdict. Presley's attorney said she will appeal the one-count conviction.
"This ought to serve notice to a lot of our young black men and black men, that you can run up and down the football field, you can run on down the courts, you can hit baseballs, you can do it. But at the end of the day, when I see you, they see a black man," Wayne Anderson, Green's father, said after the verdict was handed down last week.
Presley is currently behind bars, pending his sentencing on Oct. 18.