BRUNSWICK, Ga. – It’s been just over a year since Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in the Satilla Shores neighborhood off U.S. 17 outside Brunswick.
There’s a small memorial for Ahmaud Arbery in the neighborhood, but something much bigger made its way there Saturday as hundreds of people drove and rode bikes through the neighborhood in a memorial ride honoring Arbery’s life.
“I rode with Ahmaud today because I grew up with him. I’ve seen him around the neighborhood, and I felt like this was something that I needed to do to show my support for him and his family,” rider Zyron Wise said. “It brought back a lot of emotions for me personally. For something like that to happen and the way it happened really hurt a lot of people. It could have been any one of us.”
Arbery was shot and killed just over one year ago on Feb. 23, 2020. Prosecutors said he was confronted while jogging through the neighborhood and now three men -- Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Roddie Bryan -- are awaiting trial on charges of malice murder, false imprisonment and several other charges in connection with Arbery’s death.
“We have to remind ourselves that we have to hold these people accountable for what they’ve done. And then we have to go out and make things right, change legislation, and just be proactive in our community,” said Carla Arbery, Ahmaud Arbery’s aunt.
Arbery’s aunts, who organized Saturday’s ride, said even though the ride wasn’t an easy one emotionally for many, they plan to make it an annual event.
They also said that the ride was for more than their nephew. It was also for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others whose lives they say were lost to a system that failed them.
“We just want to live in love and unity and just know to stand for justice and stand for all,” said Thea Brooks, Arbery’s aunt.
The family said Arbery’s death hasn’t been in vain because they have seen changes in government leadership and in Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law -- which was cited in the early days after Ahmaud’s shooting death as a reason not to prosecute his accused killers.
The family said they are grateful for the community support and are preparing for trial.
Though they say it’ll be tough having to relive the moments of Ahmaud’s killing, it’s a fight they say they must face for everyone.
“You have to relive those moments when he laid out there by himself,” Thea Brooks said. “You have to relive those moments of what was he thinking when he ran for 7 minutes, so the trial is going to be another story.”
But they’ve had support from people across the country, and in their backyard -- like a group from Jacksonville who drove Jeeps during Saturday’s ride.
“We have to keep his name alive. We have to keep the memory of him alive,” said Brandon Thomas, organizer with Demand the Respect. “And to know that injustice is never tolerated and will never be tolerated.”