On Wednesday, the three White men who killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia were found guilty of murder. The shooting — and the months it took for local police to make arrests following a long period of social media outrage — captured national attention in 2020 and galvanized racial justice advocates to call for change.
“It’s been a long fight, it’s been a hard fight, but God is good,” said Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper. “I never thought this day would come.”
The day almost didn’t come. Arbery was 25 years old when he was running through a neighborhood near Brunswick when Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan grabbed their guns and chased him in a pickup truck. They finally overtook Arbery and shot him, later claiming they believed he had been running away from burglarizing a nearby house under construction. The case only attracted widespread attention after advocates and supporters called on national media outlets to cover the shooting.
The men pled not guilty on all nine counts leveled against them: two counts of aggravated assault, one count of malice murder, one count of false imprisonment, one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony and four counts of felony murder. The jury found them guilty on most of the charges, although Bryan was found not guilty of one count of malice murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, and Greg McMichael was found not guilty of malice murder.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who joined Arbery’s parents through much of the trial, said that the verdict was a victory for racial justice in the U.S.
“Let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said Black lives do matter,” Sharpton said. “We’ve got a lot more battles to fight, but this was an important battle today.”