Local leaders, activists react to guilty verdicts in Arbery slaying

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:55 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Guilty verdicts are in from Brunswick, and all three defendants are now convicted of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

The jury found Travis McMichael guilty on all nine counts including malice and felony murder. His father, Gregory, was found guilty on eight of nine counts including felony murder. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan was found guilty on six out of nine counts.

“Thank you for those who marched ... for those who prayed,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Arbery. “Now, Quez, you know him as Ahmaud, I know him as Quez, he can now rest in peace.”

Those were her words shortly after the verdicts came down.

You may remember the Arbery family has roots here in the river region. His gravesite is at the new Springfield Baptist Church in Waynesboro. And there is new response to those verdicts in from local leaders and activists.

After the first guilty verdict was read in the courtroom, people in the gallery could be heard gasping – one person even said, “Long time coming.” Reactions from local leaders here in Augusta are similar. We spoke to two leaders just about an hour after the verdicts were announced.

“I wasn’t really surprised because there are people that actually want to see the right thing happen,” said Rev. Melvin Ivey, Augusta NAACP president.

“I was ecstatic, not just for myself but for the community,” said Dr. Beulah Nash-Teachey, NAN of the CSRA president.

It was February 2020 when 25-year-old Arbery went jogging through a neighborhood outside Glynn County neighborhood. On Wednesday, a jury found three men guilty of murdering him.

“We know that justice is not always in our sight but with this case it’s important because from our perspective how could that happen? We can not be free to just walk down a street and be curious,” said Nash.

Both Teachey and Ivey traveled to the Glynn County Courthouse just last week after defense attorney’s tried to remove black pastors supporting Arbery’s family from the courtroom.

“We decided as pastors that we were gonna come out of our pulpit and say ‘We’re here you gotta deal with us,’” said Ivey.

They remember the tense moments outside the courthouse and the tense moments Wednesday just before they heard the verdicts.

“We are surprised when we’re caught of guard. But I was not caught of guard I’ve been praying for this,” said Nash.

“My first thought was: OK, let’s keep this moving. Because our nation need to have some faith in our judicial system,” said Ivey.

Justice – something they say hasn’t always come to fruition.

Are you satisfied? Is this justice?

“Justice would have been he never was murdered. That would’ve been justice. But to hold the people accountable for his death I think that is to a degree justice,” said Ivey.

Nash says the world is watching. Both leaders say after several cases where justice was denied this outcome today was much needed. Not just for Brunswick or Waynesboro where Ahmaud is buried but for the country and faith in the justice system.

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