Following the release of cell phone footage of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, who was shot and killed while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia, in February, state officials say they intend to convene a grand jury investigation to determine whether charges should be filed against his shooters.
Gregory McMichael, a retired law enforcement officer, and his son Travis McMichael, both white, chased Arbery down with their truck as he was out for a jog. Both McMichaels initially justified shooting and killing Arbery to police by saying that Arbery, who is Black, looked like someone who was suspected in their neighborhood of home invasions at that time.
Travis McMichael confronted Arbery as he tried to avoid the two men by continuing to jog around the passenger side of their truck. The two struggled for control of a shotgun McMichael was holding during the confrontation, during which time McMichael shot Arbery, according to the initial police report. Three gunshots can be heard according to audio from the video.
The older McMichael had told law enforcement that Arbery had “violently” attacked his son, but video of the incident, released on Tuesday, contradicts that narrative. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Jones, agrees.
It “proves that my son was not committing a crime,” Jones told CBS when asked to react to the video of her son being shot. “He was out for his daily jog and he was hunted down like an animal and killed.”
Attorney Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s family, called for the arrest of both McMichaels involved in the incident. “With this video now out, these guys should be arrested now,” he said.
Tom Durden, district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit in Georgia, announced this week that he will submit the case to be considered by a grand jury in Glynn County to press charges against both McMichaels. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, grand juries are not presently allowed to convene in Georgia.
Many activists and journalists on social media reacted to the video of Arbery’s murder with sadness, disgust and anger, toward the men who were accused of killing him as well as the legal system in general for its lack of protections for Black Americans.
Artist and activist Bree Newsome, explaining why she wouldn’t share the video of Arbery’s death without a warning, delved into the brutal history of white Americans celebrating Black people’s deaths in the past.
White America is unmoved by watching videos of Black ppl being murdered. Folks used to make postcards of lynchings. If white society were empathetic, there wouldn't be a push to "reopen" right now. White society is well aware of violence we experience & constantly reinforces it. https://t.co/Ygw4eXITt9
— Bree Newsome Bass (@BreeNewsome) May 5, 2020
“White America is unmoved by watching videos of Black ppl being murdered,” Newsome explained. “Folks used to make postcards of lynchings…White society is well aware of violence we experience & constantly reinforces it.”
Civil rights activist and congressional candidate Qasim Rashid, who shared the video but warned viewers about its content ahead of time, described both McMichaels as “extremists.”
“Two extremists targeted & murdered Ahmaud Arbery…This is a modern day lynching. Utterly horrifying,” Rashid wrote.
I just watched the Ahmaud Arbery video. I’ve seen many brutal acts before. But this one is among the most evil and gruesome acts of white supremacist violence I’ve ever witnessed. The fact that they’ve been walking around without any accountability is just as evil.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 5, 2020
“I just watched the Ahmaud Arbery video. I’ve seen many brutal acts before. But this one is among the most evil and gruesome acts of white supremacist violence I’ve ever witnessed,” Marc Lamont Hill, author, activist, and BET News host, said. “The fact that they’ve been walking around without any accountability is just as evil.”
Recent Pulitzer Prize recipient Nikole Hannah-Jones noted the disturbing irony of the killing and the timing of the video’s release. “A day after Ida B. Wells is awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for her documentation of lynching, some 90 years after her death, we see the wrenching evidence of the ongoing legacy of the extrajudicial killing of black ‘citizens,'” she wrote.
Journalist Jemele Hill described how she was “sickened, disgusted, and horrified” by the video.
I saw the Ahmaud Arbery video hours ago on @AttorneyCrump’s timeline and was sickened, disgusted and horrified. An unarmed black man being executed for doing nothing but existing is sadly called Tuesday in this country.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) May 5, 2020
“An unarmed black man being executed for doing nothing but existing is sadly called Tuesday in this country,” she wrote.
Upon seeing the footage, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that Arbery’s killing happened just three days before the anniversary of the killing of Trayvon Martin.
“Both situations show that white supremacy leads to the targeting of Black lives during even the most mundane activities,” the ACLU tweeted.
On Tuesday evening, after the video was made public, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Brunswick demanding justice for Arbery’s killing. Activists carried signs and gathered together in prayer in the same neighborhood where Arbery was shot by the McMichaels.
Arbery’s aunt, Thea Brooks, took part in the demonstration.
“We are looking for justice, and that’s what we want,” Brooks said. “He’s not here to be the voice, so we are his voice.”