Ahmaud Arbery’s mother asks people not to donate money to Labor Day weekend run using her son’s name

ATLANTA — Ahmaud Arbery’s mother does not want people donating money to a Labor Day run using her son’s name.

Wanda Cooper-Jones told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that she feels the group behind the run is disrespecting her son’s memory.

Organizers said they contacted Cooper-Jones in April about their intentions.

The 2:23 Foundation sent Winne a statement on April 4 that said, “we made Wanda Cooper-Jones aware of our intention to create a page to continue to pursue justice and discuss action step,” and, “She said it was fine.”

Cooper-Jones says this isn’t about money to her, except she wants to be sure any money raised by using her son’s tragedy is used the right way.

“This foundation did not have my blessings,” Cooper-Jones told Winne. “Everybody who has supported us thus far, thank you.”

The 2:23 Foundation is named for Feb. 23, the day Arbery was killed running through a Glynn County neighborhood.

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It is also linked to a Facebook page called “I Run with Maud.” Cooper-Jones says the group has taken her son’s tragedy and run with it for fundraising and more -- including a fundraising run scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

Cooper-Jones told Winne that she’s not saying they have bad intentions, but she wants to know what they are, and she doesn’t want control of the money raised but input to ensure it is used properly.

“I would want to ask everyone that hears this message to not fund it,” Cooper-Jones said.

She said the key players associated with the foundation include Jason Vaughn, one of Arbery’s high school football coaches, his brother, Arkansas attorney John C. Richards, Jr., and Akeem Baker, Arbery’s best friend.

The three men Cooper-Jones said provided important support to her and efforts to get justice in the early months.

In a Facebook post, the 2:23 Foundation said “Our intention from the beginning was simple: Pursue justice for Ahmaud. Our team has not benefited financially from any of the work we have done to do just that. In fact, we have spent our own money. Currently, we are not using Maud’s name or likeness in our organization.”

“I learned about the foundation the same day, the same time the world found out about it, and that was on social media,” Cooper-Jones said.

She’s also concerned Richardson and Baker have applied to trademark the phrase “I Run with Maud” -- a phrase credited to Vaughn.

Patent, trademark and copyright lawyer Andrea Evans told Winne that the application to open any challenges will open Sept. 15.

“The family could potentially challenge this trademark for what’s called a false association or some false connection with Ahmaud Arbery,” Evans said.

A 2:23 Facebook post suggests someone else was trying to copyright “I Run with Maud,” saying “we trademarked the name with the intention of preserving it for Ahmaud Arbery’s mother and father.”

The post seems to suggest that including the father has been a sticking point.

“It’s never been about money to us,” Cooper-Jones said.

She told Winne, in May, Baker started a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $1.9 million that she controls.

But she says she won’t touch the money until she decides what to do with it. For now, she’s living with a relative and has gone back to work as an insurance adjuster and has moved from Glynn County.

“I pray a lot,” Cooper-Jones said. “My most immediate job now is to get justice for Ahmaud.”

Winne tried through various means to interview someone from the foundation.

On a Facebook post, 2:23 said “We will continue to pursue #JusticeForAhmaud and pursue social justice advocacy and awareness for our community and across our state. Our movement has moved from a local one to one that could impact our entire state.”