May 11, 2020 | revcom.us
Ahmaud Arbery was a 25-year-old Black man, who’d played high school football and loved to jog. On February 23, he went out for a run near his home outside Brunswick, a small town in southeast Georgia.
Running was one of the joys of his life, but on this Sunday afternoon it turned deadly. Two white men, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, saw Ahmaud run by, picked up their guns—a shotgun and a .357 Magnum—got in their pickup truck and gave chase. They may have been joined by a third white man, Willian “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed Ahmaud’s murder and had apparently tried to block him for the McMichaels.
The video shows Ahmaud running down a leafy residential street, in shorts and a T-shirt, clearly unarmed. McMichael’s pickup truck is blocking the road in front of him—the two men with guns in hand. Ahmaud runs around the truck, then turns to try and grab Travis McMichael’s shotgun to protect himself. But Ahmaud is shot three times, staggers a few feet, collapses, and dies. Murdered for jogging while Black.
The police come. They recognize a former colleague—Gregory McMichael was a cop in their department from 1982-89, and then an investigator in the local prosecutor’s office until 2019. And he had Ahmaud’s blood on his hands. The McMichaels told the cops they thought Ahmaud looked like a “burglary suspect,” who had then acted aggressively and tried to take their guns, so they fired in self-defense. According to Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys for Ahmaud’s family, the police “took the word of the suspected killers who said they believed Arbery was a criminal, and they feared for their lives. That was the extent of the investigation.” (NPR)
The cops let the McMichaels go. Then they told Ahmaud’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, two lies: that her son was committing a burglary, and that he was shot by the homeowner.
The police and DA Jackie Johnson knew the video existed from day one, according to Crump. Yet Johnson refused to prosecute, claiming McMichael had the legal authority to make a “citizens arrest” for a crime—despite the fact that, according to some legal experts, the “crime” would have had to have been committed in the McMichael’s presence. Turns out Gregory McMichael had worked for Johnson for 20 years.
Four days later, Johnson recused herself from the case, and another DA, George Barnhill, took over. Less than a day after seeing the video and police evidence, Barnhill said no charges would be filed. Nothing happened until Ahmaud’s mother discovered, on Facebook, that Barnhill’s son had worked on a case against Ahmaud under DA Johnson. On April 7, Barnhill recused himself and yet another DA, Tom Durden, took over.
The Video Is Released, the Dam Bursts
Still nothing happened until Tuesday, May 5, when the video was leaked and began circulating online. The dam burst. There was a growing tsunami of rage, protest, and demands the killers be arrested that spread rapidly, building toward protests Friday.
Durden quickly called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Thirty-six hours later, on the evening of Thursday, May 7—the night before nationwide protests were planned—the GBI arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael and charged them with felony murder and aggravated assault. Now, suddenly, law enforcement discovered that “there was more than sufficient probable cause to justify charging two men with murder,” the New York Times reported on May 8.
On Twitter, #IRunWithMaud was used tens of thousands of times, with people sharing pictures of themselves in running gear. By Friday, high-profile professional athletes sent the FBI and prosecutors a letter demanding a federal investigation into Ahmaud Arbery’s death. A Change.org petition calling for justice had gathered over 700,000 signatures. There were protests in Brunswick and Atlanta, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlottesville, Virginia; and elsewhere. #IRunwithAhmaud gatherings took place across the country including New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles, involving doctors, teachers, professional athletes, and many more.
A Lesson Learned and the Real Question Raised
Without a fight by the masses of people, there will be NO JUSTICE! Think about it. People have had to persist and raise an outcry just to get an arrest after this blatant, unprovoked murder. And no doubt there will have to be much more struggle to make sure these racist killers are convicted and sent to jail for life!
And then there’s the bigger question of justice for all Black people. The cruel lynching of Ahmaud Arbery hearkens to the days of slavery and slave catchers, the era of Jim Crow lynchings and the postcards made from those thousands of hangings... and it’s evoked cries today that Black people are still being hunted wherever they go by killer pigs and racist vigilantes.
With the oppression of Black people woven into the history of this country and the fabric of this society and system, this raises—yet again—profound questions: When WILL such barbaric outrages be ended? And HOW will they be ended once and for all?
Through Revolution—Nothing Less! This System Cannot Be Reformed, It Must Be Overthrown!
Watch: The talk by Bob Avakian, Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution.