Pastors in Brunswick

Brunswick, Ga- On November 18, hundreds of Black pastors, including Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Civil Rights activist, including Martin Luther King Jr. Ⅲ, from around the country gathered in front of the Glynn County Magistrate Court to support the family of Ahmaud Arbery.

Faith-based leaders gathered in front of the courthouse in the coastal city of Brunswick after an attorney for one of the men standing trial in the death of Arbery said that he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” in the courtroom.

Kevin Gough, who represents William Bryan, stated to Judge Timothy Walmsley that the presence of pastors in court would impact the trial after Sharpton sat with Arbery’s family.

“Obviously there’s only so many pastors they can have,” Gough said. “And if their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here … sitting with the victim’s family, trying to influence the jurors in this case.”

In response, faith leaders and supporters of Arbery’s family prayed and marched in solidarity. Many faith leaders did not show up to protest in fear that it would cause a mistrial, but to build a “prayer wall” in solidarity with the family.

“If this lawyer sets a precedent with us, then he sets a precedent that we can judge whoever is in a courtroom anywhere in the United States. What he said is not good for anybody,” Sharpton said. 

Martin Luther King, III stated that he was there on behalf of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather as well, noting the fact that they were each Black pastors.

He addresses the fact that although he is not a preacher, he is in the ministry of standing up against injustices. “We are not going to give up, we are not going to give out, we are not going to give in ,and we are going to keep coming back until justice is served,” King said. 

The community of Brunswick have grown closer due to the murder of Ahmaud and many citizens have tried to provide constant support to his family.

“As an African American pastor this is the time to stand,” said pastor Charles Robeson of Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship in Savannah. “I answered the call to come and pray.”

Linda Gamble, a native of Brunswick, says this trial is much more personal due to the connection she had with the victim’s family. “When you see it in the news from other states, it resonates, but not how it resonates when you are right here at home,” she said.

The Mayor of Brunswick, Cornell Harvey, spoke with The Atlanta Voice to discuss his thoughts on the trial and how it affected the city. He is a huge advocate for the unity that took place amongst the Black pastors. 

“It’s not a march of protest or demonstration, but just to show support for the family and for justice for our whole community. This to show the world that we can do it peacefully. We can shout as loud as we want to — we can whisper as softly we want to and  we can do it all in peace and harmony,” Harvey stated. 

The Transformative Justice Coalition Founder and President, Barbara Arnwine came to support along with members of her organization and spoke to a group of journalism students from Savannah State University. 

She spoke to them about the importance of Black Lives Matter, the number of Black people currently in jail for non-violent crimes and the United States Justice System. 

“We have a lot of deficiencies in our system,” Arwine said. “We have a system that has to be challenged, not reformed, but restructured.” 


The Ahmaud Arbery Trial Timeline

On February 27, 2020, the day after the murder of Arbery, District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case due to Gregory McMichael being a former investigator in her office. On April 7, 2020, District Attorney George Barnhill also had to recuse himself due to his son working in Johnson’s office. 

The case was then transferred to District Attorney Tom Darden on April 13, 2020.

Less than a month later, the video of Arbery’s death is released. Two days later, the McMichaels were arrested. On May 11, 2020, the District Attorney took over the case after Darden left due to inefficient resources.

Bryan was arrested May 21, 2020. 

In early November, a jury selection of one Black juror and 11 White jurors were selected. The defense argued that the McMichaels were making a lawful citizen’s arrest because they thought Arbery resembled the person who was behind burglaries in the neighborhood. They argued that Travis McMichael shot Arbery because Arbery attacked him.

Before the trial, prosecutors let it be known that they intended to argue that the defendants’ actions were racially motivated, yet the jury heard no discussions of race. 

Arbery’s death sparked change with Georgia lawmakers. The Civil War era citizen’s arrest statute that the defendants claim to be not guilty under was abolished. A new hate crime law that allows for extra penalties for those who commit hate crimes was also passed last June with bipartisan support and signed by Governor Kemp.

On November 18, the defense rested their case. Closing arguments begin November 22.

Alexis Grace is a recent graduate of Clark Atlanta University and a current Graduate student at Agnes Scott College. During and after her time at CAU, she has worked and interned for several publications...