Black Churches Challenged to Mobilize to Brunswick, GA

by Pat Bryant

Black pastors, churches, and communities across the United States have been summoned to Brunswick, Ga. by Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jamal Bryant, and Benjamin Crump after a statement in court made by Attorney Kevin Gough. Gough is a defense lawyer for one of three White men accused of killing a Black jogger. He asked the Georgia judge to limit high profile black pastors from attendance.

Three White men, William “Rody” Bryan,  Gregory and Travis McMichael, accused of hunting down and killing 25 year old Black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery.  The trial  began with a 5 minute video of the murder. 

Civil rights and Freedom Movement leaders attending the trial call it a modern-day lynching.

Eleven Whites and one Black sit on the jury.  Judge Timothy Walmsley said he thinks exclusion of Black jurors was racially discriminatory, but did nothing to correct it. All jurors must agree on defendants guilt or innocense for conviction or acquittal. The three men are charged with nine felonies including murder and aggravated assault. Fatilla Shores  neighborhood. A former high school athlete, Ahmaud was fitness conscious. He dreamed of building houses and frequently stopped in to check on construction progress on a house. He died in that house.

Prosecutors have presented a shocking story. After leaving the construction site Arbery jogged by two armed White men in trucks. A third man operating a video camera followed them. The description in court had the feel of a scene in a movie set. Five minutes of chasing Arbery back and forth in a residential block between two trucks The chase ends with one defendant, Travis Michael,  stepping from the truck with a shotgun pointed at Arbery. A struggle ensued and Arbery was fatally shot. Police summoned by the killers, did nothing to save Arbery’s life as he laid dying on ground.  

After 74 days Black community protests,  the murder video surfaced and the national media widely published it. Only then were Bryan, and the Michaels charged. Gregory Michael is a retired Glyn County Sheriff office investigator and court investigator.

Defendants lawyers in an opening statement say the men thought Arbery may have been guilty of an uncertain crime, maybe burglary of the construction site. Video from the site showed Arbery walking through, looking, but taking nothing. Lawyers claim the men were making a citizens arrest, Arbery resisted, and the White men were defending themselves.

“We don’t want any more Black pastors in here”,  said Kevin Gough a defense attorney representing one of the accused killers. Gough asked Judge Timothy Walmsley to limit Black preachers in the court.  Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network had been in court the previous day.  “My concern is that it’s one thing for the family (of Ahmaud Abery ) to be present. ..but high profile members of the African American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during trial in the presence of the jury, I believe that’s intimidating…and it is an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.

Atty Barbara Arnwine

In response to Attorney Gough’s demands, Atty. Barbara Arnwine, president of the Transformative Justice Coalition is calling on pastors from around the country to attend the trial in Brunswick, Ga. 

Local pastors across Georgia and Florida  and the nation are mobilizing to attend the trial. Besides Jamal Bryant in Atlanta, pastor Jeffrey Dove of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ocala, Fla and Florida AME Bishop Frank Reid, Jr. are inviting pastors and members to Brunswick. Brunswick, Georgia is close to the Florida line and Jacksonville, Florida, a city with one million people is the closest big city.

“The Black Church is uniquely positioned to lift a moral voice, moral vision, and expose some of the fundamental contradictions that exist in American public life”, says Rev. Jeffrey Dove of Jacksonville.

Also calling on pastors and church leaders to join the trial on November 18, 11 am. at the Brunswick Ga courthouse is Rev. Gregory Moss, a former Charlotte North Carolina pastor and former executive director of the Lott Carey Missionary Society.  “We must stand against this overt, racist attempt to prejudice the jury and further deny and diminish our rights as citizens to attend public proceedings

Brunswick’s population is home to 16,122 people of which 56 percent are Black. The largest industries are Sea Island Company that markets its beaches and resorts, Southeast Georgia Health System, and Brunswick Cellouse, a polluting paper company that spoils this area’s natural beauty, especially the air and water. Brunswick is the County seat of Glyn County which has a population of 69 percent white, 26 percent Black, and 6 percent Latino.

The courthouse has small hearing room, that accommodate less than forty spectators with an overflow room generally not filled. A large contingent of family and friends gather under tents outside the courthouse. 

Ahmaud Abery’s mother and father are present in the courthouse each day. Flanked by lawyers, they sometimes comment to the reporters gathered outside on matters at trial. As details of the evidence unfolds like video cam from the first officer on the scene the Arbery family were visibly shaken. Ahmaud could be seen still alive.

Dana Roberts Beckham

Among a network of community leaders fighting for conviction of the three accused murderers is Dana Roberts Beckham, founder and leader of Genoa Martin Friends of Historic Selden Park Association. A recent graduate of College of Coastal Georgia with a BS of Science in psychology and organizational leadership Dana tirelessly battles racism and environmental destruction in this sleepy town mirrors many other towns in America.

“The majority of the Black community is not involved in social justices (struggles) in our city because our town lacks the kind of leadership to raise up warriors (to battle) social injustices …such as environmental racism, medical racism, housing racism, educational racism, mass incarceration,  food desserts and other facets of racism,” said Ms Roberts Beckham.

Rabi Rachael Bergman. Rabi co-founder Glyn Clergy for Equity, an ecumenical group founded after Ahmaud Abery murder has agitated law enforcement and the courts for justice. The group trains clergy to engage in dialogue about racism through  its equity dinners. Clegry have been outside the courthouse during hearings . Some people are outside courthouse because support family, media,

Rabi Bergman said this case is important.   “This case is going to be a referendum on what is acceptable in the South.  The case will mark a turning point in history in which a black man can get a fair trial.

*Pat Bryant is a longtime journalist who covers events in the Southern United States

2 thoughts on “Our Close Look at the Ahmaud Arbery Trial”
  1. I applauded the Pastors, Clergymen and any persons from any and all religious faith make their way to this trial. A young man was shot DEAD while jogging in a free country the U. S of American. So the Defense Attorney is telling the Judge not to allow a black pastor in the court room and maybe the family of the MURDERED Jogger Ahmaud Abery’s mother and father will be told not to attend either if this judge grants the Defense Attorney request.

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