Protesters gathered in Brunswick, Georgia, to demand justice on what would have been the birthday of an unarmed Black man gunned down while jogging.
Demonstrators rallied outside the city’s courthouse, where two suspects in the death of Ahmaud Arbery are scheduled to appear later Friday. Protesters demanded Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson resign and sang “Happy Birthday” to a man who should have been celebrating turning 26.
Arbery was killed Feb. 23 when two armed white men confronted him as he was out for a jog. Graphic cellphone footage that surfaced more than two months after Arbery’s death shows Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, confront the unarmed Black man as he attempts to jog past their vehicle. Arbery is shot by a man identified as Travis McMichael, seen holding a shotgun, the video shows. The 25-year-old then collapses to the ground.
Gregory McMichael was also armed with a .357 Magnum, police said. Both men told police they believed Arbery to be burglar and were able to walk free after giving their version of events. But after the video’s release, a swell of outcries caused the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to arrest the father and son on Thursday.
From the outset, Georgia officials appear to have failed in their handling of the case. Two prosecutors tasked with the case recused themselves because of their professional ties to Gregory McMichael. Those includes Johnson, the district attorney, who protesters demanded resign Friday.
Suspect Gregory McMichael is a former investigator in the Brunswick district attorney’s office. Before that, he was a cop in the area for seven years.
Another prosecutor who recused himself argued there wasn’t enough probable cause to charge the two men in the shooting. More from The New York Times:
One of the prosecutors who was previously assigned to the case, George E. Barnhill of the Waycross Judicial District, had advised police that there was insufficient probable cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers, arguing that they had acted legally under the state’s citizen arrest and self-defense statutes, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Barnhill eventually asked to be removed from the case because his son worked in the Waycross prosecutor’s office with Mr. McMichael.
A third prosecutor, Tom Durden, said earlier this week he would present the case to a grand jury to decide charges, even though Georgia has prohibited grand or trial juries until after June 12 due to the coronavirus. The GBI stepped in days later as outrage from the public grew, charging the men with murder and aggravated assault.
The bureau is also investigating William Bryan, whom prosecutors identified as the man who took the cellphone video of Arbery’s killing.