BRUNSWICK, Ga. – As lawyers huddled with a judge inside the Glynn County Courthouse and 600 prospective jurors waited to be interviewed, a small crowd gathered outside to show solidarity with the family of Ahmaud Arbery.
Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and neighbor “Roddie” Bryant are charged with murder and other charges in connection with the shooting death of 25-year-old Arbery as he ran through the Satilla Shores neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020.
The three men say they are innocent, telling police initially they suspected Arbery of burglarizing homes in the area and were trying to make a citizen’s arrest.
FULL COVERAGE: The Ahmaud Arbery Case
No charges were brought against the three men accused of killing Arbery -- one of which is a former police officer/district attorney investigator -- until cellphone video of the killing was obtained by an area radio station more than two months later. The resulting outrage brought national attention, an indictment on federal hate crimes charge, the indictment of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney and two changes in Georgia state law.
“We can never take for granted that a white person will be convicted for killing a black person no matter how much evidence we have, so we are not taking anything for granted,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said outside the courthouse Monday. “We are here focused every step of the way for justice for Ahmaud Arbery to make sure they are held accountable to the full extent of the law. A slap on the wrist would not be enough.”
“I’m anxious. I’m all over the place,” said Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told a CNN reporter. “I’m going to get to find out some information that we didn’t know that happened on that day. It’s going to be graphic.”
“As long as I get justice, I’m fine,” said the victim’s father, Marcus Arbery. “But I know my son was lynched -- lynched by a white mob.”
Cooper-Jones said it has been a hard fight to find justice.
“It’s been a long, hard road. But I’m thankful I will be there,” she said. “Every day his name will be called in court, I will be there.”
Even though the courthouse is locked down due to COVID-19 protocols and security issues, some traveled from as far away as Wisconsin to see the trial. They are among the crowd on the lawn outside. Many are prepared to stay for days, even weeks as the trial continues.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Maureen Forte of the Transformative Justice Coalition in Chicago. “The system is not fair and the only way we can make the system fair is to come and represent and stand with the Arbery family.”
Others chanted or held signs of in the courthouse lawn -- support that the Arbery family has noticed.
“Since the beginning of all of this, from around the world,” said Thea Brooks, Arbery’s aunt. “And then to come out here today and see the tents and chairs ... chanting ... It’s just, it’s great.”
If supporters of the McMichaels or Bryan were in the crowd, they didn’t identify themselves.