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‘We’re riding for Ahmaud’: Atlantans ride to coast to protest Arbery case

J. Scott Trubey
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta — A caravan of hundreds of people left a southwest Atlanta church Saturday morning for coastal Brunswick, seeking justice in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery and demanding the resignations of two district attorneys.

About 8:30 a.m., the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office escorted cars from Victory Outreach Church along Metropolitan Parkway for a rally planned for 2 p.m. at the Glynn County Courthouse. There, civil rights leaders, Arbery’s family and community members will call for the resignations of Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill.

Hundreds gathered outside the Glynn County courthouse for a rally seeking justice for Ahmaud Arbery on Saturday in Brunswick, Ga.

“Their mishandling of the case, the fact they would make a public statement when they recused themselves … just reeks with prosecutorial misconduct,” said Mawuli Davis, an organizer for the caravan and an attorney with the Davis Bozeman law firm. “And it should not be allowed for them to continue to serve the citizens. The citizens of Georgia deserve better.”

Both DAs have denied any wrongdoing in how they handled the investigation of Arbery’s death in February. Johnson said she recused herself from the case because one of the alleged assailants, Gregory McMichael, once worked as an investigator in her office, and Barnhill stepped in.

Barnhill declined to prosecute and ultimately stepped down. The GBI arrested McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, this month after reviewing evidence including a 36-second video that captured the shooting and, upon its public release, sparked national outrage.

Both men were charged with felony homicide and aggravated assault and have been denied bond.

Arbery’s family has said he was out for a jog when the McMichaels confronted him. Protests and runs in solidarity with Arbery’s family have sprung up across the country since the video of the shooting became public.

In an early April letter to Glynn police, Barnhill wrote that the McMichaels were legally carrying weapons and were entitled to pursue and detain Arbery under the law that allows for citizen’s arrest. The McMichaels told investigators after the incident that they suspected Arbery of burglaries and that he became violent when confronted, none of which has been substantiated.

In his letter, Barnhill said he believed Arbery had “mental health issues,” without providing any supporting medical evidence.

Glynn County commissioners Peter Murphy and Allen Booker have said Johnson’s office told police not to make any arrests immediately after the shooting, which she has disputed in statements and a recent radio interview.

Outside Victory Outreach, former Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman urged members of the caravan to protect themselves from the coronavirus and stay six feet apart. CORE Response and Project South provided free testing for COVID-19 for participants.

Members of the caravan posted signs in their cars reading “Justice for Ahmaud” and “Riding for Maud!!”

“Today we’re on the road,” Boazman said. “We’ve been running for Ahmaud and today we’re riding for Ahmaud.”

The Rev. Gerald L. Durley, a member of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta and a longtime civil rights leader, said members of the caravan have taken up the torch of predecessors, including the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Now, don’t give up the torch and don’t let anybody put your torch out,” Durley said. “You are going to Brunswick today to light up that place and get rid of those DAs and don’t feel no way tired.”

Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU of Georgia, said her organization is calling for an end to citizen’s arrest laws.

“These laws let people think they can be vigilantes and take the law into their own hands,” she said.

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Staff writer Brad Schrade contributed to this report.