The video of the drama had scandalized the United States and Ahmaud Arbery, 25, had become a symbol of the struggle of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter (black lives matter). Three white Americans were convicted on Wednesday of murder of African-American jogger Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had prosecuted and then killed in February 2020 in the state of Georgia, after a trial marked by the issue of racism. Joe Biden immediately welcomed the verdict which “reflects that our judicial system is doing its job”. But for the Democratic president, “we must instead recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one will be afraid of being subjected to violence because of the color of their skin,” he said. stated in a press release.
Travis McMichael, 35 and author of the fatal shots, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 and who participated in the prosecution, were on trial in Brunswick, in this southern state of the United States, following this tragedy which had fueled the great anti-racist protests in the summer of 2020 across the country.
The twelve jurors, including one black man, deliberated for more than eleven hours to reach this unanimous verdict. The announcement was greeted by protesters who chanted Ahmaud Arbery’s name outside the courthouse.
In the room, a family member shouted for joy when Travis McMichael was convicted. This verdict shows that “yes, black lives matter,” said Pastor Al Sharpton, a figure in the struggle for the civil rights of African Americans, in court.
Leading civil rights organization ACLU welcomed the judgment, noting in a statement that the real challenge was to create a society where whites and African Americans like Ahmaud Arbery could live without fear of racist violence.
An “attack” on Arbery
“The real measure of justice is not a verdict, but making sure we build this future through our collective work,” said Yasmin Cader, head of ACLU. On February 23, 2020, the 25-year-old was jogging in the coastal town of the southeastern United States 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 to have taken him for a burglar operating in the vicinity and had invoked a law of Georgia then authorizing ordinary citizens to make arrests.
A video of the drama, made public nearly three months later, scandalized the United States.
The racial dimension of this case, in a state still marked by racism and segregation, was long overlooked during the trial, which lasted more than a month. Observers were concerned about possible manifestations of anger if the three men were acquitted.
“Running to escape for five minutes”
The McMichaels and their neighbor took “on a whim” the decision to chase Ahmaud Arbery “because he was black and he was running in the street,” said prosecutor Linda Dunikoski in her indictment.
“They scared him” by chasing him when the young man had no weapon and did nothing “other than run to escape for five minutes,” she said. It was an “attack on Ahmaud Arbery”. Travis McMichael’s lawyer had on the contrary assured that his client was not seeking to “take someone’s life”, but that he had acted in the name of “a sense of duty and responsibility”.
The three men are not done with justice. They are indicted for racist crime at the federal level and will be judged once again in February.