A file photo taken on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 features Patricia Arbery, State Rep. Sandra Scott, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and Triana Arnold James and their friends as Cooper-Jones received a proclamation declaring February 23rd as Ahmaud Arbery Day. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

State Representatives Sandra Scott (D-Rex), Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain), and Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) will attend a running event that will honor the memory of Ahmaud Arbery on Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 6pm at the Beltline’s Westside Trail Entrance at 1000 White St. SW in Atlanta.

“To Ahmaud’s family, I continue to pray for your strength as you continue to move through this process,” said Rep. Scott. “We are still fighting for law enforcement accountability and gun safety laws, and we won’t stop until we have justice for Ahmaud.”

The event will take place exactly one year to the day when the State of Georgia declared February 23rd as Ahmaud Arbery Day throughout the state. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones announced the formation of a scholarship in her late son’s honor.

Arbery was hunted down and slain by Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael on February 23, 2020. Their friend, William “Roddie” Bryan, filmed the heinous act. Each man received life sentences in a state trial.

Each man would later be convicted under the federal hate crimes statute. Travis McMichael, was sentenced to life plus 10 years in prison in a federal hate crimes trial; and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, to life plus seven years in prison; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, to 35 years in prison.

“Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and delayed prosecution shows how bipartisan legislation can pass to balance the scales of justice,” said Rep. Davis. “As a result of Ahmaud’s tragedy, the citizen’s arrest law was repealed and a new hate crimes law was enacted. I pray we pass legislation on police accountability soon without unjust murder being its catalyst.”

Additionally, State Reps Davis, Schofield and Scott introduced three bills that would promote police accountability: 

  • House Bill 107, called the “Police Accountability Act,” would potentially require law enforcement officers to wear body cameras during interactions and release the videos in some situations. It also requires the attorney general to publicly report use of force by police annually. HB 107 also would remove qualified immunity for police officers.
  • House Bill 112, the “Ethical Policing Act,” would create a pathway for cities to create citizen review boards for law enforcement. The citizen review boards could examine complaints against law enforcement agencies and publish their findings publicly. It also requires law enforcement agencies to set up an “early warning system” to track complaints against officers. The bill would provide guidelines for ethical policing and reporting complaints.
  • House Bill 113, named the “Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act,” requires basic training for police officers to teach verbal de-escalation techniques and use non-lethal force. It also would require training to recognize mental health issues and crisis intervention techniques. 

“Ahmaud Arbery’s name will forever remain alive, yet his blood still screams from the streets in Georgia,” said Rep. Schofield. “A mother and father’s heart still grieves instead of celebrating their son’s future milestones. Ahmaud’s name will continue to bring change across our country. As a policy maker and a mother, I will continue to hold those accountable when they have crossed the line and extend my prayers to the Ahmaud’s family and friends.”

Georgia State Representative Tanya F. Miller, D-Atlanta, speaks during a Judiciary Committee hearing inside the State Capitol on Monday, February 13, 2023. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Additionally, State Representative Tanya F. Miller, a Democrat from Atlanta, submitted House Bill 325, a bill that would also potentially establish permanent use of body cameras by police officers; to require that certain peace officers be equipped with body cameras for recording audio and video of all activities performed while on duty.

According to the bill, law enforcement agencies that tamper with body cam footage could be charged with a misdemeanor. 

“We have been given this sort of false choice that you either are pro-public safety or you’re pro-police accountability, but you can’t be pro-both,” Miller said.  “And I think you can absolutely be pro-both. Our communities deserve to be safe. They want to be safe, and they want to be treated with dignity in the process.”

Georgia State Senator Elena Parent, D-Decatur, speaks out against Senate Bill 435 on February 24, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Senator Elena Parent, a Democrat from Decatur, highlighted two bills that she sponsored that would reduce gun violence, Senate Bill 33 and Senate Bill 75, during a dinner hosted by the Democratic Caucus of the Georgia General Assembly and Moms Demand Action,  grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.

Senate Bill 33 would potentially close a loophole in the Georgia State Law that currently allows those deemed a “threat to themselves and others” to obtain access to firearms. Senate Bill 75 would establish an offense for gun owners who allow firearm access for minors under the age of 17.

“Introducing laws that focus on reducing violence in the state of Georgia has been a priority of mine since I was first elected to serve as a State Senator,” said Parent. “I think that we broadly agree that guns do not belong in the hands of young children or individuals who are seriously mentally ill and who are at risk of injuring themselves and others.”

Currently, Georgia’s constitutional-carry law, which went into effect in January, ensures that non-felons no longer need to have a permit with them to carry a firearm in public.

“The bills that I have introduced would ensure that gun owners are willing and able to take full responsibility for their firearm and the actions it inflicts,” Parent continued. “We can and will take preventative measures to protect ourselves, our families and our communities, as SB 33 and SB 75 would do.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...