On Tuesday (Feb. 22), a jury determined that the three white Georgia men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery violated a federal hate-crime statute by depriving Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, of his right to use a public street because of the color of his skin. The three men found guilty of hate crimes in Arbery’s killing are Travis McMichael, 36, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor William Bryan, 52. They were also charged of attempted kidnapping and found the McMichaels guilty of one count each of brandishing or discharging a firearm during a violent crime.
The jury included three Black members, one Hispanic member and eight White members, who determined these men were indeed guilty of all charges in the racially charged murder. In the closing statements, lawyers weighed in on both sides, regarding the role of racism in the case. Ultimately, the jury determined the defendants’ motive was discrimination.
The men face up to life in prison for the federal crimes, along with the top of the life sentences they received earlier this year in state court after being convicted of Mr. Arbery’s murder. Mr. Bryan was the only one eligible for parole. According to NY Times, the federal convictions ensure that the defendants will receive significant prison time even if their state convictions are overturned or their sentences reduced on appeal.
This is a symbolic victory for Arbery’s family and the Black community at large. The fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery is what Rev. AL Sharpton referred to as “a lynching in the 21st Century.”
Arbery’s fatal shooting went viral in 2020, joining the list of senseless hate crimes against Black victims. The violence leads to conversations about the treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. This verdict is one of few that succeed, coming in 10 months after a jury found Derek Chauvin, a White former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of murdering George Floyd. However, the verdict come s a few days after another White former police officer, Kimberly Potter, was sentenced to only two years in prison for murdering Daunte Wright, a Black motorist, at a “routine” traffic stop.
The conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s feels like a small victory for racial justice. Many civil rights leaders are calling this win a reflection of the determination of Arbery’s mother, who had vowed to keep fighting for her son.
The three defendants facing the series of charges proves that they were motivated by deep-rooted racism. The federal prosecutors in the case fired off a heap of racially hostile texts and social media conversations further proving what the men really thought of Black Americans.
Happy Black History Month! A little justice never felt so sweet. We are sending love to Arbery’s family and friends.