Al Sharpton to attend trial at request of Ahmaud Arbery family

"We see the Arbery case as a 21st-century lynching and we want justice," said Sharpton.

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The family of Ahmaud Arbery has requested that civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton make an appearance at the murder trial once it gets underway.

Sharpton, who called Arbery’s death a “21st-century lynching,” spoke about supporting the Arbery family when delivering a sermon in Savannah on Sunday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the St. Paul C.M.E. Church. At a news briefing following the morning service, Sharpton gathered with Arbery’s mother, father, and family attorney Lee Merritt

“We want justice,” said Sharpton about the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, WTOC reports.

“The local activists in Brunswick, we’re there to support them not supplant them. They’ve been diligent,” Sharpton said. “We aren’t taking over because they have kept the fire burning even when the national media wasn’t there. But we see the Arbery case as a 21st-century lynching and we want justice.”

Arbery, 25, was chased and fatally shot on Feb. 23, 2020 by white father and son Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael while jogging. The McMichaels, accompanied by their white neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, pursued Arbery in their truck, believing he was responsible for a string of robberies in the Satilla Shores subdivision. Bryan captured the incident on cellphone video.  

It took more than two months for the men to be charged, which occurred only after public outrage resulting from the leaked video.

Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery (Credit: Ahmaud Arbery)

Each defendant is facing a total of nine counts. The McMichaels and Bryan are charged with one count of malice murder, four counts felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count false imprisonment, and one count criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. A 12-member jury will decide if they are guilty or not.

The slow-moving jury selection for the trial is underway and appears to be centered on how potential jurors in Brunswick, Ga. feel about race. Attorneys for the three defendants have said they acted in self-defense. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial disagrees. 

“I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he ran till he couldn’t run anymore, and it was turn his back to a man with a shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight,” Dial testified at a preliminary hearing last June, noting that McMichael used a racial epithet after shooting Arbery. “I believe Mr. Arbery’s decision was to just try to get away, and when he felt like he could not escape, he chose to fight.”

In April, the Justice Department brought federal hate crimes charges in Arbery’s death, charging the McMichaels and Bryan with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

In September, Former Georgia district attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted on misconduct charges alleging she used her position to shield Arbery’s killers from being charged with crimes immediately after the shootings.

A grand jury in coastal Glynn County indicted the former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney on charges of violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer. If convicted, Johnson faces one to five years for violating her oath of office. The obstruction charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.

This article contains additional reporting from theGRIO’s Stephanie Guerilus.

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