Gerald Griggs: We want justice for ‘Maud
After parading for Justice for Ahmaud Arbery for almost two years, I can’t believe I’m writing this article. Not many people know it, but I was one of the first to learn of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by three armed vigilantes. I have seen some brutal cases in my 17 years as a lawyer, and this one was by far one of the worst.
Together with Arbery’s attorney, Lee Merritt, activist and journalist Shaun King, the Georgia NAACP, and media strategist Dontaye Carter, we developed a strategy to raise awareness of this murder. We launched the video on social media and traveled to Brunswick to take a stand for justice.
Seventy days after Arbery’s murder, ordinary people around the world helped us make the video go viral. They were just shocked and dismayed, and it forced Georgia into the international spotlight. Activists, lawyers and citizens contacted the GBI. As an attorney for the Georgia NAACP, I personally spoke with the director of the GBI to ensure that a full investigation and charges would be pursued. We took bus trips from Atlanta with state lawmakers, toured the grounds, and spoke with witnesses. We have helped the citizens of Glynn raise their voices for justice during peaceful protests.
Millions of Americans ran with Maud, and the criminal justice system responded with a predominantly white jury except one black person. They ignored our calls for diversity in the courts.
When our civil rights icons traveled to Brunswick to keep this nation’s eyes on the lack of justice for Arbery, lawyers for the McMichaels said they wanted no more black pastors in the courtroom. At every turn for Justice, they tried to silence us.
We don’t have time to be silent when the red clay flowing under our feet cries out for Justice. Lynchings are not a pastime for us. Lynchings are our today, our tomorrow and are in the future for our children.
Now is the time to send a message that we demand justice for Ahmaud. You cannot arrest a citizen for a non-crime. The law says: “A private person can arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or with his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender escapes or attempts to escape, an individual can arrest him on reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion. Additionally, the McMichaels never told police during the initial investigation that they were attempting to arrest a citizen.
It’s time to send a clear message that Freedom Summer 2020 hasn’t stopped. Now that the trial has begun, many emotions run through our community, but the main focus remains on justice, and we have high hopes for the Arbery family. After hundreds of marches through Southeast Georgia and Metro Atlanta, the community marches to the courthouse for justice. We hope Georgia is right. Our ancestors depend on Georgia to get it right. The call for justice won’t stop until they value our lives because Black Lives Matter. Justice for every black man murdered because of racism. I stand with families in Georgia and across the country. The Atlanta and Georgia NAACPs will continue to fight for justice.
What do we want?
When do we want it?