One year ago today on Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Georgia man was killed while out for a jog. His name didn’t make national headlines until month later, May 2020 when cell phone video of his shooting death went viral.
According to our sister station, WJXT in Jacksonville, Arbery’s death was said to be due to a citizen’s arrest and initially, no one was charged. After that video of his death was released and protests followed, the case quickly moved forward.
Now, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Roddie Bryan are awaiting trial. Gregory McMichael said he thought Arbery was a burglary suspect.
Dr. Brandy Faulkner, professor of Gloria D. Smith Africana Studies and political science at Virginia Tech told 10 News the outrage and call for justice in Arbery’s case led to an entire movement, nationwide protests and racial unrest in 2020.
Faulkner believes Arbery’s shooting death combined with Breonna Taylor’s and George Floyd’s gave people a new sense of urgency to do something.
“Of course we haven’t had the trial yet so we don’t know the outcome of what that particular case will be, but what we have seen is some states have started to make some progress with criminal justice reform,” said Dr. Faulkner.
The most recent example is Georgia governor Brian Kemp asking the state’s legislature to repeal a civil war-era citizen’s arrest law that was cited as a reason why the three men awaiting trial were originally not held accountable.
Arbery’s death also inspired change hundreds of miles away in southwest Virginia. It resonated with the owners of Fleet Feet Roanoke who feel running should be safe and inclusive.
In May of 2020, the store sold shirts that say “We Move Forward Together” and “Spread kindness, it’s the Roanoke way”. All of the money made went directly to Total Action for Progress (TAP) and Humble Hustle to help support the Black community. Fleet Feet Roanoke raised more than $3,700.
It didn’t end there. For Black History Month, Fleet Feet Roanoke is selling shirts that say “Stronger Together” to benefit Humble Hustle and the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia.
“People who are here in Roanoke, we love our community and we want to help and a lot of times people don’t know how to help and we’re just trying to do the little things that we can,” said co-owner Robin Lewis.
For the one-year anniversary, Ahmaud Arbery’s family will have a candlelight vigil at his gravesite and a parade in his honor on Saturday.
The 2:23 Foundation is hosting a virtual global run in honor of Arbery. For more information, click here.