People will begin arriving in the Golden Isles this weekend from around the country to support the family of Ahmaud Arbery as jury selection begins for the trial of the three White men accused in the shooting death of the 25-year-old Black man.
Sponsored by the Washington, D.C.,-based Transformative Justice Coalition, the Ahmaud Arbery Week of Action will involve people gathering daily outside the Glynn County Courthouse through the first week of the proceedings.
The coalition’s Week of Action begins in earnest Sunday with a cookout and a “Justice for Ahmaud” march at the Brunswick African American Cultural Center, 1621 Albany St.
The murder trial for defendants Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan begins Monday with jury selection at the courthouse, 701 H. St., Brunswick.
Travis McMichael shot the unarmed Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun during a struggle for McMichael’s weapon, ending a pursuit in which the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery in pickup trucks as he ran through the public streets of Satilla Shores. Bryan recorded the deadly conclusion with his cell phone.
Attorneys for the three defendants will maintain the fatal shooting was self-defense in the course of a citizen’s arrest. The prosecution insists it was cold-blooded murder.
“The Week of Action is focused on supporting the Arbery Family,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition. “We’re there to support the family and to pray with the family. We are focusing on awareness and the real need for justice. But we are also promoting peaceful gatherings to bring about reconciliation and good systemic change for the community. There has been enough violence in Brunswick.”
The chase and shooting occurred outside the city limits of Brunswick.
Arnwine estimates between 50 and 100 people will attend the Week of Action. They will arrive Saturday, staying at a motel on Jekyll Island, she said.
Panel discussions will take place each evening throughout the week and can be accessed by the public through YouTube and Facebook Live, she said.
A “Keep Hope Alive” cookout takes place beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Brunswick African American Cultural Center, the building on Albany Street that features a large mural of Arbery occupying an entire wall.
A “Justice For Ahmaud March” is scheduled from 2 to 3 p.m., followed by a gospel choir concert and prayer service beside the Arbery mural. The public is welcome to attend, but Arnwine stresses that the event is peaceful in nature and that the focus is on support and prayer for the family.
Tatiana Cook, organizer of the Golden Isles’ annual Juneteenth celebration, has worked with the coalition to bring about the Week of Action.
“They’re coming here to lift up the Arbery Family in prayer,” Cook said. “It’s just a peaceful gathering to show support for the family, and to show support for the community as a whole also. Most of it is through prayer.”
The group will take a chartered bus to the courthouse each day, Monday through Friday, the first week of the Arbery trial, Arnwine said. The first week is expected to be taken up by the jury selection process.
Tele-Town Hall meetings, legal forums and online symposiums will take place nightly.
An attorney, Arnwine met members of the Arbery Family late last year when she came to Brunswick on voter registration drives. She and justice coalition chairman Daryl Jones became better acquainted with family members after inviting them to a voting rights rally in Washington, she said.
Arnwine said she and other coalition representatives have been on hand for the many pretrial hearings that took place during the past year.
“We told the family that we would be there for them every step of the way in this trial,” Arnwine said. “We’re putting a lot of resources into supporting the family and we want to make sure that they do not feel it is their fight alone. This moment needs to be a lesson for the entire nation, an opportunity for progressing beyond hate.”
For more information, go to the Transformative Justice Coalition’s Facebook page or its website: tjcoalition.org.