Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) on Sunday described the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery as a lynching and characterized rhetoric from the White House as emboldening people with racist beliefs.
Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed Black man, was jogging through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23 when he was shot and killed. Two armed white men, father Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested last week and charged with murder and aggravated assault after graphic cellphone footage of the shooting surfaced online.
In an interview on “State of the Union,” Bottoms said Arbery’s killing was “part of a bigger issue that we’re having in this country.”
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African-American man,” Bottoms told CNN.
“With the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House, in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way that we otherwise would not see in 2020,” she added.
Bottoms also said that the nation normally relies on the Justice Department to intervene and ensure people are appropriately prosecuted if local leadership fails, “but we don’t have that leadership at the top right now.”
She also said the suspects were only arrested because the video of the killing was made public.
“I think had we not seen that video, I don’t believe that they would be charged,” Bottoms said.
Her remarks echoed those of Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, who said last week that without the national attention it received, her son’s death “would have been a coverup.” In a plea for justice last week, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, begged for the McMichaels’ arrest “before they try to lynch anybody else’s kids.”
According to police reports, the McMichaels claimed they believed Arbery matched the appearance of a burglary suspect and had pursued him in their truck. They were denied bond Friday.
On Sunday, Georgia’s attorney general called on the Department of Justice to formally investigate the handling of the case.