Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the day Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two white men armed with guns as he passed through their neighborhood in Georgia, and Arbery’s relatives are planning a vigil to commemorate and celebrate his life.
Arbery’s murder took place as the United States moved in COVID-19 lockouts. Authorities questioned the three white men involved in Arbery’s murder, but little happened for more than two months until a nationwide outcry erupted over a leaked cell phone video of the shooting on May 5.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation picked up the case the next day and quickly arrested the gunman, Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and his neighbor Roddie Bryan, for murder.
The three men are still in pre-trial detention without bail.
Jason Vaughn, Arbery High School football coach and organizer of anniversary events, told The Associated Press it’s important to “remind people of where it all started, when it all started.
“For a long time it was like we were screaming in the dark and no one was listening.”
A memorial procession led by Arbery’s family is scheduled for Tuesday evening through the Satilla Shores subdivision, where he fell bloody in the street following three shots at close range.
Her mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, is expected to join the candlelight vigil at a local church.
Wear a blue ribbon and bring a candle. Here is the info on one of TONIGHT’s candlelight vigils to mark the first anniversary of Ahmaud Arbery’s death. Arbery is buried in the Church Cemetery in Waynesboro, GA, where the vigil is scheduled. His mother is expected #MorningRushATL pic.twitter.com/6moRQ8qYkC
– Shiba Russell (@ShibaRussell) February 23, 2021
“I’m basically trying to get through the day. Every day is different, ”Cooper-Jones told ABC News. “Try not to dwell too much on what happened and try to celebrate the son I had who was so tragically taken from me. I try to think of the good memories that we shared, and that basically gets me through the day.
Organizers have called on supporters outside Brunswick to take part in a virtual 3.59-kilometer run in memory of Arbery, an avid runner whose family says he was jogging when he was killed.
Outrage over Arbery’s murder continued to simmer when a Minneapolis policeman killed George Floyd on May 25, sparking protests across the United States denouncing racial injustice.
His name is still mentioned alongside other people of color who were killed by police, including Breonna Taylor, as protests of racial justice and anti-police brutality continue.
Georgia governor announced he would revise citizen arrest law – one year later #AhmaudArberyis murder. The statute of 1863 had been used to impose slave patrols and lynchings.
2 white men tried to use it to justify Arbery’s murder, escaping arrest and charges until a video was leaked. pic.twitter.com/9CXSyypknC
– AJ + (@ajplus) February 18, 2021
In Brunswick, Arbery’s death has reminded many residents, black and white, that they need to be more active in holding elected officials accountable, Reverend John Perry told The Associated Press. He was president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter at the time of the murder. Now he’s running to be the city’s next mayor.
“We used to elect people to power and we just hope they would do the right thing,” Perry said. “The failure to deliver justice in Ahmaud’s situation said we need to do more as citizens.
In November, voters angered by Arbery’s death impeached District Attorney Jackie Johnson. Greg McMichael, a former police officer, had worked as an investigator for Johnson, who refused his office to deal with the case. Many have criticized Johnson for playing a role in the delayed arrests, a charge she denies.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is calling on Georgian lawmakers to do anything but eliminate an 1863 state law allowing individuals to make arrests. The prosecutor first assigned to the Arbery case said the law concluding the murder was justified. Kemp too sign a hate crimes bill last year after Arbery’s murder.
Still, there is no trial date for the three men accused of murder.
Lawyers for the three men indicted in the case insist they have not committed any crime. Lawyers for the McMichaels said they sued Arbery, suspecting he was a burglar after security cameras had already recorded him entering a house under construction.
They say Travis McMichael shot Arbery fearing for his life as they went after a shotgun. It was Bryan, the third accused, who took the cell phone video of the shooting from the driver’s seat of his van.
Prosecutors said Arbery didn’t steal anything and was just running when the McMichaels and Bryans chased him.
The anniversary walk and commemorative run were organized by the 2:23 Foundation, a group founded by Vaughn and Arbery’s cousin, Demetris Frazier, to fight systemic racism.
The foundation worked last year to register 18-year-old high school students to vote. Now its members and other local activists are pushing for the creation of a Citizen Review Board for the Glynn County Police Department, which handled the initial response to Arbery’s murder.
Vaughn, who coached Arbery to Brunswick High School, said planning for the birthday was taxing. For him, Arbery’s murder remains painfully fresh.
“You want to make sure you keep Ahmaud’s name alive, but it’s like reading an obituary over and over again,” Vaughn said. “It’s like reliving the past all over again. You have to stay strong. “