ATLANTA — A multinational crowd of over 1,000 rallied in front of the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, May 8 to demand the prosecution of Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, a former cop and investigator for the prosecutor’s office, the men who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery. He would have been 26 years old that day.
The two McMichaels were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault the day before, more than two months after the February 23 shooting took place. It wasn’t until a video was leaked to the media May 5, and the outcry that followed, that the arrests were made.
The video, shot by an associate of the McMichaels, shows Arbery, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood. He attempts to run around a pickup truck where the armed McMichaels, who are Caucasian, confront him, telling him arms in hand they want to question him. He resists, and is shot to death by Travis McMichael.
This was a vigilante killing in which the two men took it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner. This kind of vigilante thuggery has a long history against working people, the labor movement and fighters for Black rights.
No charges were filed initially in the case. Instead, local officials did everything they could to cover up the facts in the killing to prevent the arrest of the McMichaels. Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, who was assigned the case after the Brunswick DA recused herself, claimed the McMichaels acted in self-defense. He said they were trying to make a “citizen’s arrest,” believing Arbery was involved in burglaries in the area.
But as Brunswick attorney James Yancey told the media, “You can’t argue self-defense if you instigated the event. No Black man being chased by two white men in a pickup truck with guns is going to stay and talk to them. He [Arbery] had every right to defend himself.”
“Your son was involved in a robbery,” was how the cops reported Arbery’s death to his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they claimed, “There was a confrontation with a homeowner. There was a fight over the handgun. Your son was shot, and he was shot multiple times.”
“It’s hard when you can’t really believe what authority tells you,” she said later as the facts of the killing finally came out.
Arbery’s first cousin Kevin Smith, along with two of his aunts, led a protest of several hundred May 5, the day the video was released. They marched on the street where Ahmaud was gunned down, calling for the prosecution of the two vigilante killers.
“My kid was murdered,” Arbery’s father, Marcus, told the media. “That’s all I can say. He ran like that every day — all his life.” Demonstrators at the May 8 protest rally sported T-shirts and carried signs with the words, “I Run With Maud.”
Investigate the cover-up
“I won’t be satisfied until everyone involved is gone,” Richard Nixon, president of Local 1423 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, told the May 8 rally, calling for the firing of all those implicated in the cover-up. Brunswick is the second largest “roll-on/roll-off” port in the U.S., a major hub for import and export of cars, trucks and tractors. The ILA organizes the port.
James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, called for the resignations of both the Brunswick and Waycross DAs. “Ahmaud was shot down like a dog,” he said. “We are here to support this family.”
Protests have been held in a number of other cities. Support for prosecution of the McMichaels has come from a host of celebrities, politicians and sports figures.
On May 10 Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the local authorities who handled the case.
There is a long history of police cover-ups in Glynn County. Cops there have been “accused of covering up allegations of misconduct, tampering with a crime scene, interfering in an investigation of a police shooting and retaliating against fellow officers who cooperated with outside investigators,” the New York Times reported May 9.
“All working people should speak out against vigilante assaults like this and demand the indictment and prosecution of all those involved, including those who engineered the cover-up,” Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia, told the Militant. “My campaign supports all fights against police brutality, racist discrimination and the entire capitalist injustice system.”