BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Several groups gathered Monday outside of the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick as closing arguments were underway in the trial of three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
The New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and Black Lives Matter 757 were among the groups that rallied outside the building.
“We are at a critical and crucial moment,” said attorney Malik Shabazz, with the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Ahmaud Arbery case
There were dozens of people, some of whom drove in to support Arbery’s family and others whom came in to make their message heard.
“I’m excited because I feel like we are going to get accountability for Ahmaud Arbery. And the judge, I feel good about him, as well. I’m just excited,” said Carolyn Ruff, with Black Lives Matter Women of Faith.
“One of the things I learned that when someone is marginalized by race, ethnicity or social economics, having someone stand beside them, it changes how they are perceived,” said Hope Cannon, who attended the rally.
Joyce McInnis said she’s been watching the case from afar.
“I drove up from Orlando this morning and didn’t know what I was going to come in here to see,” McInnis said.
She said she was happy to support Arbery’s family.
“I think more people should be here in full support. It has to stop. It has to stop,” McInnis said.
People spoke and chanted. Some stomped on a Confederate flag.
New Black Panthers for Self-Defense strolled the perimeter, long guns in hand.
“I’m not going to turn the other cheek. I love Martin Luther King, but I’m not going to turn the other cheek,” said Mikhail Muhammad, with the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the New Black Panthers for Self-Defense as a hate group with virulently racist and anti-Semitic views.
But non-members at the courthouse shared some of their views about the case — concern about a mostly white jury and the hope for convictions in the shooting death of Arbery.
“I don’t like what happened with him. It could’ve been my son, and I hope they do prosecute them,” said Tonya Persinger, who lives in Brunswick.
Members of the original Black Panther Party have sought to distance themselves from the groups that bear the name New Black Panther Party.
On Thursday, hundreds of faith leaders from across the country rallied and prayed outside the courthouse in support of Arbery’s family following comments from defense attorney Kevin Gough, who said he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” sitting in the courtroom with Arbery’s family.
Defense attorney Jason Sheffield spoke with reporters on Friday about the presence outside the courthouse.
“I want to tell you that what happened yesterday was beautiful. It was powerful. There was passion. There was emotion, community support. The community came together in a beautiful, powerful way on an issue they felt very passionate about,” Sheffield said.
Activists say they’ll be at the courthouse to continue supporting Arbery’s family.
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and pursued Arbery, 25, in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded the video of Travis McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for his shotgun.
No one was charged in the killing until Bryan’s video leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police. All three men face counts of murder and other charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.