Guilty of the murder of African-American jogger Ahmaud Arbery

Guilty of the murder of African-American jogger Ahmaud Arbery
Guilty of the murder of African-American jogger Ahmaud Arbery

Three white Americans were convicted on Wednesday of the murder of African-American jogger Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had prosecuted and then shot dead in February 2020, in the state of Georgia, after a trial marked by the question of racism .

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President Joe Biden immediately welcomed the verdict, while acknowledging that “a lot of work” remained to be done before achieving racial equality.

Travis McMichael, 35 and perpetrator of the fatal shots, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52, who participated in the chase by filming it, were on trial in Brunswick, Georgia, State of the southern United States still deeply marked by racism and segregation.

They had long enjoyed a certain leniency from the authorities: it took nearly three months and the dissemination of images of the tragedy for them to be arrested.

The case had fueled the major anti-racist protests that rocked the country in the summer of 2020, in the wake of the death of another African-American, George Floyd, suffocated under the knee of a white police officer.

The twelve jurors, including a single black man, deliberated for more than eleven hours to reach a unanimous verdict on the multiple counts of murder of varying degrees that weighed against the defendants.

  • Listen to the column of Luc Laliberté, specialist in American politics:

The three men face life imprisonment and the sentence will be pronounced later.

In the room, Ahmaud’s father, Marcus Arbery, gave a cry of joy when Travis McMichael was convicted.

«Un long combat»

Outside the court, the announcement of guilt was greeted by protesters who chanted Ahmaud Arbery’s name.

“It’s been a long and difficult fight,” her mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the crowd. “I never thought I would see that day arrive, but God is good.”

This verdict shows that “yes, black lives matter,” said Pastor Al Sharpton, a figure in the struggle for African-American civil rights, using the famous slogan of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter.

“The spirit of Ahmaud has defeated the crowd of lynchers,” said lawyer Ben Crump, who has defended the families of many victims of police violence.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski paid tribute to Ahmaud Arbery’s parents, who “trusted us to do justice” to their son.

While many questions arose about the impartiality of jurors, the verdict proves that “the jury system works,” she said.

On February 23, 2020, the 25-year-old was jogging in this coastal town in the south-east of the country when he was chased by the three men in their cars.

After an altercation, Travis McMichael opened fire and killed the jogger.

The three defendants then assured that they had mistaken him for a burglar operating in the vicinity and had invoked a law of Georgia then authorizing ordinary citizens to make arrests.

Repealed law

The racial dimension of this case was underlying during this trial, which lasted more than a month, and observers worried about possible manifestations of anger if the three men emerged free.

The acquittal last week of a young white man, Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people on the sidelines of anti-racism protests in 2020 in Wisconsin, has already sparked a stir across the country.

The McMichaels and their neighbor decided to chase Ahmaud Arbery “because he was black and he was running in the street,” Linda Dunikoski said in her indictment on Monday.

“They scared him” by pursuing him, while the young man had no weapon and did nothing other than “run to escape for five minutes,” she said, denouncing an “attack on Ahmaud Arbery”.

Travis McMichael’s lawyer Jason Sheffield assured after the verdict that his client and his father “really believed that what they were doing was the right thing to do”.

The governor of the state, Brian Kemp, on the contrary considered that Ahmaud Arbery had been “the victim of a self-proclaimed justice which has no place in Georgia”. In May, the Republican had repealed this law on citizen arrests, which dated from the Civil War.

The three men are not done with justice. They are charged with racist crimes at the federal level and will be tried again in February.


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