BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Wednesday marks two years since Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while running in the Satilla Shores neighborhood just outside Brunswick. It’s also the day after a jury affirmed what Arbery’s family has been saying all along -- that he was chased down and killed because he was Black.
Tuesday’s convictions of Arbery’s killers on federal hate crime charges were the victory Arbery’s family had long prayed for.
“I’m very thankful that a good jury was selected. I wasn’t worried at all, I knew Ahmad’s hands was in this from the very beginning,” his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said after the verdicts were read Tuesday.
As they celebrate that major victory, supporters of Arbery’s family said verdicts coming down just one day before the two-year mark of his murder is no coincidence.
The Georgia House passed a resolution earlier this month formally declaring Feb. 23 -- the day Arbery was gunned down in 2020 -- as Ahmaud Arbery Day, and Arbery’s family said they were ready to honor his memory Wednesday with several events that were scheduled throughout the day:
Marcus Arbery Sr. said he honors his son every day in a way that’s truly personal.
“I’ll be working out for Ahmaud because that’s what he loved to do. He worked out, and so I’m taking over that role,” he said. “That’s what I have to keep doing to keep going.”
Cooper-Jones spoke about the positives that have come after her son’s murder.
“When we hear the name of Ahmaud Abery, we will think of change. The founding of the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation, and the focus on raising awareness, education and advocacy for mental wellness for Black boys. Laws changing is just the beginning. Next, we must change the minds and the perception of Black men in this country,” she said.
March through Satilla Shores neighborhood
Supporters gathered Wednesday evening in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
“It’s still unbelievable,” said Arbery’s aunt, Ruby. “I wake up plenty of nights, looking for my nephew.”
Some didn’t know about Satilla Shores — a Brunswick neighborhood off U.S. 17 that residents say doesn’t feel the same.
“Just passing by the entrance with the word that says Satilla — it’s just a flood of emotion,” said Van Merrell, a Brunswick resident.
This time last year, we also didn’t know there was a video that showed Arbery’s murder. It would later be a key piece of evidence in the state trial where three men were convicted of murder.
The Arbery family and their supporters stood in the spot where he was killed.
This, just a day after the men were found guilty again for federal hate crime charges.
“It was obvious from the jump, when you look at the tape and the words and derogatory speech they were using that they hunted him down, gunned him down because he was a Black man,” said Porsche Miller, a civil rights activist.
Pastors prayed for the family and the community’s healing. Arbery’s family says to this day, they grieve.
“Ahmaud will never be forgotten,” his father said. “Look around. You can tell he was a loved child.”
His death sparked a change. His supporters plan to revisit this site every year.
Albany Street mural
Dozens also came together near the Albany Street mural for a moment of reflection.
Just steps away was Triana Arnold James, president of Georgia NOW (National Organization for Women). She is one of the authors of the resolution that officially declares Feb. 23 as Ahmaud Arbery Day.
“It was important to me that we recognize today and kind of turn our pain into purpose,” she said. “You know, it’s a terrible day. It’s a tragedy that happened. But I believe that if we can turn that pain into purpose, and look at the good that comes out of it.”
Since Arbery’s death, the state overturned the citizen’s arrest law that defense attorneys tried to use in the state criminal trial against the three men convicted of Arbery’s murder.
The Georgia Hate Crimes Act was signed that allows extra penalties to be applied for crimes based on race or gender.
“All of that progress needs to be acknowledged, and I think that we should take this day and turn our pain into purpose. take away the negative and keep on with the positive,” James said.
Also among the crowd, were longtime residents of Brunswick, including Essie Sheffield. She’s lived in Brunswick since 1934.
Sheffield said she was not surprised when Arbery’s killers were found guilty of a hate crime.
“There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to come out that way,” she said. “Being in Brunswick all my life. I mean, people think more about racial things here, but we’re going to do the right thing. We don’t care about what color a person is. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong.”
Brunswick High School
A group of students and others gathered on the field where Arbery used to practice at Brunswick High School, walking the track.
William Bolden is a coach and teacher at the school, and said he knew Arbery.
“For me, you know, Ahmaud was actually a childhood friend of mine,” Bolden said. “To be up here and just see the younger generation come out here and just show support for, you know, everything that we have going on. It’s an awesome feeling.”