Georgian Vigilantes: A Criminal Justice Lesson

Sitting in the park, playing with toy guns, sleeping, using a cellphone, and reporting a trespassing. All of these activities will get you killed… only if you’re Black. Unfortunately, a new activity to be added to the list is jogging. February 23rd, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while out on a jog. His case was swept under the rug until the video of his murder was released to the public, sparking a nationwide outcry.

Since the case has developed, people all across the country have spewed out different theories in an attempt to justify the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The most recent culprits have been media outlets. Multiple media outlets have reported on the 2013 incident in which Arbery allegedly brought a gun to a high school basketball game. They have also reported on his 2018 shoplifting arrest. But what do these incidents have to do with the hate crime that led to his death? Absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, this has been a recurring trend. When an innocent Black person is killed, the media vilifies the victim and many begin to justify the extreme actions taken. Some wonder if they had a criminal record while others say they looked older than their age or cynical. Above all, the speculation insinuates that the person’s death is justified because of what they have done in the past. 

However, a person’s past records are no indication of how innocent they were during the altercation that eventually became the last minutes of their life. Thus, the media’s fruitless attempts to paint Arbery as a criminal prior to the incident are nonsensical.

While the media has released these meaningless incidents, another encounter that has been released has been seen as a crucial part of understanding why this case was concealed for over two months. A 2017 encounter shows Georgia police harassing Arbery who was sitting in his parked car in a park on his day off.

The first officer suspected he was doing drugs without reasonable suspicion. After questioning Arbery, he proceeded to call for backup. He frisked Ahmaud for weapons and continued to question him until the second officer arrived. There were no weapons found and Arbery––clearly annoyed––refused to let the officers search his car. The second officer attempted to tase Arbery but the gun malfunctioned. 

There was ultimately no reason for him to be tased and the incident shows how racially biased the officers in Glynn County are. This would explain the dithering when it was time to arrest the McMichaels and William “Roddy” Bryan, despite the video evidence they were given back in February. 

The incident also shows how racially biased the McMichaels are. There was no evidence that tied Arbery to the previous neighborhood break-ins. While Arbery was seen entering the unfinished house, many others had also entered the house and the owner reported there was nothing taken or disturbed

Even if they wanted to question Arbery, there was no reason for them to be armed and the fact that they were armed clearly shows their intent. Although they claimed they were attempting a citizen’s arrest, Georgian law requires immediate knowledge of the crime and being witness to the said crime. They did not tick either one of these boxes which makes me wonder if they’d even read the legalities of a citizen’s arrest. 

The American criminal justice system has continuously failed Black people. It has failed to the point where the only way for action to be taken is for someone to become a trending hashtag. Black people should not have to protest in order for justice to be served. The system must ameliorate because Black Lives Matter. 

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Nathan Odige