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Activists in Brunswick, Jacksonville protest handling of Ahmaud Arbery case

Black jogger shot, killed in suburban Brunswick neighborhood in February

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thursday night’s arrest of two men in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery didn’t discourage hundreds of his supporters from gathering at the Glynn County Courthouse on Friday morning to honor his life and continue to call for justice.

Arbery’s death spurred nationwide outrage and a string of demonstrations. A second rally was being held late Friday in Jacksonville -- which was held on what would have been his 26th birthday.

“They didn’t make the arrests after they saw the video. They made the arrests after we saw the video,” one speaker, referencing a cellphone video of the slaying that was leaked to the public two days before the arrests.

Arbery’s family was among those who spoke to the Brunswick crowd, saying the two arrests are just the beginning. They also want the local district attorney, Jackie Johnson, to resign.

“His smile was contagious and I see him every day," Arbery’s aunt said. "Although he’s gone, but I also think about (him) if my boys go outside.”

Arbery’s supporters say they want a trial and conviction of Travis and Gregory McMichael.

'We are here today for one reason and one reason only: because Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood," said James Major Woodall, president the Georgia chapter of the NAACP. “Because of that we are standing together with this community with this family to demand that not only justice be served, but his life be honored.”

Among the speakers, Wayne Anderson, whose son, Tony Green, was shot and killed during a traffic stop by Zacheriah Presley, a then Kingsland police officer who was found guilty of violating his oath as an officer but not guilty of manslaughter.

Anderson said Arbery’s case reminds him of his son’s case.

“When I went through the trial for my son, the last thing I said: ‘I don’t ever want to see another parent go through this.' So that is why I am here.”

Local pastor and activist Mack Knight feels Arbery was targeted because he is black and its a theme they have been seeing for decades.

“I came to tell America that Ahmaud’s blood cries, Tony Green’s blood cries, Emmett Till’s blood cries, Sandra Bland’s blood cries, Freddie Gray’s blood cries. And so today I run with Maud,” Knight said -- the last reference to a hashtag to being used to honor Arbery, who was known for his running.

Demonstration in Jacksonville

Later Friday, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville spearheaded a Jacksonville demonstration over the handling of the shooting death of Arbery. Organizers of the Jacksonville protest called Arbery’s death a lynching and said it was covered up by authorities because of racial bias in the justice system.

Their 5 p.m. Friday demonstration in Jacksonville involved a motorcade, a gathering on the grounds of the Duval County Courthouse and a news conference. During the motorcade, participants circled the courthouse with signs.

“The message I want to spread to everyone is even though the men have been arrested, I’m looking for a conviction,” said Kitty Carson, a demonstrator. “That’s the real justice.”

“We’ve got to come together and stop this mess. It’s about unity. It’s the united states of America,” said Adam Lewis, a demonstrator.

The demonstrators are also making the protest more personal to Jacksonville, saying the Sheriff’s Office has a “lack of trust, transparency and accountability” and has failed to release body cam video in police-involved shooting investigations.

“Jacksonville to Brunswick we stand in solidarity demanding justice for Ahmaud but as well continue to demand justice for families here, who see their killers walking free due to a racially unjust system,“ said activist Michael Sampson of the Jacksonville Community Action Committee.

The investigation

A Hinesville district attorney on Tuesday recommended that a grand jury review and asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who friends say was killed while jogging that February afternoon in a suburban Brunswick neighborhood.

The recommendation came on the same day that graphic cellphone video surfaced online that appeared to show the deadly confrontation between Arbery and Travis McMichael, the son of a former district attorney investigator. The video was posted by a Georgia radio station and circulated widely on social media sites.

Less than 48 hours later, both McMichaels were taken into custody and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.

RELATED: Mother of jogger shot, killed won’t watch video of his shooting death

No one disputes that Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery on Feb. 23, but he was not charged right away because prosecutors originally found he was acting within the scope of a citizen’s arrest.

According to Glynn County police documents, McMichael and his father, former DA investigator Greg McMichael, told police they followed Arbery as he ran out of a neighborhood where there had been recent burglaries and told him to stop because they wanted to talk to him.

The video shows Arbery was running toward the father and son, stopped in the road in front of him. According to the Brunswick News, which obtained documents from the Glynn County Police Department, only one car burglary had been reported in that area from Jan. 1 to the day of the shooting.

Within 36 hours of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assigning three supervisory-level agents to look into Arbery’s death.


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