ATLANTA — On Saturday, a “justice caravan” drove from Atlanta to Brunswick Saturday to protest the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case.
Arbery, 25, was killed as he jogged through a south Georgia neighborhood after he was pursued by a father and son, Travis and Greg McMichael. The McMichaels have since been charged with murder.
The caravan, led by the group Just Georgia, left from Victory Outreach Church in southwest Atlanta Saturday morning. In the afternoon, demonstrators rallied at the Glynn County Courthouse.
Organizers of the rally said around 250 vehicles drove more than four hours from Atlanta for the rally, bringing historically black fraternities and sororities, civil rights organizations and black-led gun rights groups, who said if Arbery had armed himself, he might be alive today.
Channel 2′s Audrey Washington was in Brunswick, where some speakers demanded the resignation of two district attorneys who were originally assigned the case and accused the prosecutors of a cover-up.
The first district attorney assigned to the case, Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson, recused herself because one of the suspects in the case, Greg McMichael, used to work for her department.
After recusing herself, Johnson suggested Waycross District Attorney George Barhill take over the case, apparently without disclosing to Georgia’s Attorney General, Chris Carr, that Barnhill had already told police there was insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants for the McMichaels.
Critics say that Johnson and Barnhill staged a cover-up of Arbery’s death, which led to the McMichaels not being arrested until 47 days after his death.
Arbery was unarmed when the McMichaels pursued in their Brunswick neighborhood. They said they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest after catching someone trespassing at a nearby home under construction. Arbery was killed in a scuffle over a shotgun with Travis McMichael.
At Saturday’s rally, speakers, including members of Arbery’s family, gave impassioned pleas for Arbery to get justice.
Attorney Mawuli Davis came from his suburban Atlanta home because he wanted to make it clear how many people are not satisfied with how the Arbery case has been handled.
“Georgians are just not safe when you allow an injustice like this to take place,” Davis sad. “What we know, historically, is that in order for black people in America to get justice, we have to organize, we have to protest. It’s unfortunate but it’s been the reality of our history.”
“Justice for Ahmaud is more than just the arrests of his killers,” said John Perry, president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter at the Saturday rally. “Justice is saying that we’ve got to clean up the house of Glynn County.”
“We’re going to keep on marching. We’re going to stand in solidarity. We’re going to keep on protesting. We’re going to keep on raising our voices because Ahmaud Arbery will get justice," said Triana Arnold James, president of the Georgia chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Arbery’s family ended Saturday’s rally thanking the crowd for their support and saying "we are all running for Ahmaud.”
Arbery’s aunt told the crowd that her nephew deserves justice and her family needs peace.
“Every night, I have to pray for God to help me go to sleep, because I see how my nephew was fighting so bad and it hurts,” she said. “When I tell you this is a journey, I tell you we are going to overcome this, and we are going to overcome it together.”
Atlanta resident Margo Brown said she made the trip with her family to support Arbery’s mother “to let her know she’s not alone."
“Somebody just came and took his life for no reason,” Tyrone Brown said.
After the rally, protesters walked to the police department because they said they also want some of the officers on the force held responsible in the case.
Channel 2 Action News learned Saturday that a Glynn County officer recommended the owner of the home under construction reach out to Greg McMichael for help in what they said was an ongoing issue with trespassers on the property.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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