Racial justice updates: Kemp to sign hate crimes bill, Arbery’s mom reacts and more

Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 6:33 AM EDT
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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he'll sign a new hate crimes bill after it goes through a legal review.

The law will establish specific hate crime definitions, penalties and policies for all Georgia police agencies. Deputies would be required to complete documents detailing the alleged hate crimes. Once Kemp signs the bill, it will be up to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to begin designing these reports. Local agencies will start learning how to properly document hate crime charges and arrests.

After being passed by the state House and then the Senate this week, the bill went back to the House for approval of the Senate’s revisions. From there, it goes to Kemp for his signature.

Ahmaud Arbery’s mother says she’s happy the bill finally passed — but sad it took her son’s death to make it happen.

“I think that would happen to Ahmaud was really a push for the entire state of Georgia to look at it again and pass the bill,” Wanda Cooper said. “It was truly because of hate.”

Her comments and the action on the hate crime bill came as three men were indicted in the death of Arbery, a black jogger who was killed Feb. 23 outside Brunswick after being chased by a white father and son who say they thought he was a burglar.

A Glynn County grand jury indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on malice and felony murder charges in Arbery’s death.

The father, Greg McMichael, is a former police officer. Bryan recorded video of the incident that fueled outrage, although prosecutors say they think he played a greater role, leading to the charges.

The charges weren’t filed for months, after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved. For that reason, the case has drawn scrutiny to the Glynn County Police Department and other local authorities.

Georgia lawmakers passed a bill this week to let Glynn County voters decide whether to disband the agency.

The death of Arbery, who has family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro, has been one of the cases drawing a national wave of protests calling for police reform and racial justice. The protests gained steam after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, all African Americans killed by police officers.

While there has been talk at the state level of police reform, the matter has reached the U.S. Capitol, as well, where South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has proposed legislation. Over the past few weeks, Scott's office reached out to Aiken Public Safety to get some input on that police reform bill because many of the new policies are already in place in Aiken.

Senate Democrats for now have blocked the Republican-led police reform bill, saying it’s not tough enough.

Meanwhile, as protests for racial equality erupt across the country, some calls for change are occurring on college campuses.

For example, students at Augusta University are demanding their voices be heard. This comes after an email sent by an adjunct faculty member surfaced online, calling a recent student-led protest “disgraceful.” The students and alumni of AU are angry at what they say is a lack of response to racist incidents on campus.

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