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Three years after two White men lynched 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in a Georgia suburb, lawmakers came together to continue an annual run in honor of his life and the conviction that put his killers behind bars.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, State representatives Sandra Scott, Viola Davis, and Kim Schofield joined joggers on the 2.23-mile course at Atlanta’s Beltline Westside Trail Entrance at 6 p.m., according to 11 Alive.
The 2.23 mile distance represents the date Arbery was killed by Travis McMichael with support from his father, Gregory, and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
After accusing the young, Black man of stealing with no proof, the men chased Arbery in a pickup, cornered him, and shot him at point blank range as he tried to flee for his life.
“It’s so unfair, so unfair, so unfair that he was killed while he was not even committing a crime,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said after Travis McMichael received a guilty verdict.
Ultimately, Travis McMichael received a sentence of life plus 10 years in prison, Gregory was sentenced to life plus seven years, and sentenced to 35 years in prison for “committing federal hate crimes and other offenses,” according to U.S. Department of Justice.
Lynching of Ahmaud Arbery
Arbery’s lynching also placed new attention on Georgia’s Jim Crow-era citizen’s arrest law, which the state repealed following public outrage of the incident. Last year, Rep. Scott successfully proposed a resolution to make Feb. 23 Ahmaud Arbery Day.
The image of a free Black man running has long symbolized a threat to the status quote, a truth the late James Baldwin illustrated in The Fire Next Time decades ago when he wrote “well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.”
Research from the Maryland Population Research Center found that Black men in mostly White neighborhoods are less likely to exercise outdoors because of fears that they will be criminalized. Black sociologist Rashawn Ray’s nationwide survey represents clear evidence that racism or the fear of racism-based aggression hinders Black health.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and delayed prosecution shows how bipartisan legislation can pass to balance the scales of justice,” said Rep. Davis in a news release. “As a result of Ahmaud’s tragedy, the citizen’s arrest law was repealed and a new hate crimes law was enacted.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.”