State Representative Al Williams, D-Midway, brought together various elected officials from across the state and nation to the steps of the Historic Brunswick Courthouse Tuesday morning. Williams said they were demanding justice and will seek to pass legislation due to the miscarriage of justice in the Ahmaud Arbery killing.
Arbery was killed on Feb. 23 by two white men while he was jogging in his neighborhood. Williams called Arbery a fallen hero. He faced the family and said, “We are here to show you. We stand with you. We support you and we hear you and we are here for a new day in Georgia.”
Williams said they will push to pass House Bill 426, the Hate Crime bill, in Georgia. Williams also said he spoke with Stacey Abrams this morning and that she sends her love to Arbery’s family.
Williams then introduced James Beverly Georgia Democratic Chairman of the Minority Caucus.
Beverly said when the incident occurred, they wrote a letter to the Governor asking for the immediate arrest for the perpetrators.
“Feb. 23 marks a dangerous and infamous day in Georgia history,” Beverly said. “A day when a young black man was going for a jog and a few assailants decided that they would hunt him down corner him and murder him in a time where that certainly should not be happening in the United States and certainly not here in Brunswick. But that day is just a day in a long history of atrocities that have happened in this country. Atrocities that have been going on for 400 years.”
Beverly said the purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss the four things they are going to ask the governor, members of the general assembly, their compadres in the senate and the Lt. Governor to do.
First and foremost the group is seeking the immediate removal of Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill.
“And that they be charged with criminal obstruction of justice, “Beverly said.
The group wants House Bill 426 to be amended and called the Ahmaud Arbery Hate Crime Bill. Beverky said the bill needs to be further amended in respects to citizens arrests and open carry laws. And that the Bill needs to be passed in the state promptly.
“We need to get rid of citizens arrest because we can’t have this happen again in this country<’ Beverly added.
Beverly said they want to create a culture of caring.
“As we think about the governor who has a commercial where he gets a shot gun and says we are going to round up folks and take law into our own hands,” Beverly stated. “We can’t deny that sets the stage for folks doing the foolish things they did. Let’s get rid of this culture of dog whistle politics.”
The group also wants the family and the community to know they are doing these things in the name of justice.
“That we acknowledge them and give them the space to breath,” Beverly said.
Senator Lester Jackson fired off an angry message saying that said that Barnhill, Johnson, and Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden failed and all three should be removed from office at once.
“I come before you today in my capacity as the chairman of the senate urban affairs committee to call upon the Governor to suspend from office the first three District Attorneys who terribly mishandled the murder of Ahmaud,” he said. “They did not do their job. No one can argue that they mishandled justice.”
Al Williams defended Durden and proceeded to clarify to the folks in attendance they were going to seek removal for only the first two DAs.
“I don’t want to include him (Durden) in this,” Williams told the crowd. “The two Barnhill and Johnson…we certainly have to deal with. Not Tom Durden, he moved it toward an indictment and had them arrested.”
Williams said the group of elected officials were going into the jury assembly room where they planned to discuss moving their agenda forward.
Before closing Williams said, “We stand ready to move forward. We want justice…HB426 must pass and we must deal with the citizen arrests powers that have turned into vigilante agreement. There is no place for lawlessness and vigilantism. There is no way that I’ve got to be terrified every time one of my five sons are out just because they happen to be African American.”