On February 23, two men pursued and fatally shot an innocent young man as he jogged through a south Georgia neighborhood near his home. Ahmaud Arbery, who would have turned 26 today, was the victim of this senseless racial attack. After a video of the encounter was released, prompting a social media outcry and protests in Georgia, Arbery’s killers—a local father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael—were finally arrested this week and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
However, the incident occurred over 10 weeks ago and the leaked footage of the assault is what led celebrities to social media to express outrage and demand justice for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, which ultimately pushed law enforcement officials to uphold the law.
LeBron James was among those who spoke out against the murder on Twitter, writing “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes! Can’t even go for a damn jog man!”
Director of When They See Us, which also depicted the perils of racism, and systemic oppression, Ava DuVernay provided a call to action. She implored others to join in demanding Waycross county district attorney George Barnhill resign for making no charges or arrests. “Let’s voice outrage beyond posting his picture on social media,” she wrote.
Taylor Swift expressed her outrage over the killing, calling it “senseless, cold blooded, [and] racially motivated.”
However, though the two aggressors have been arrested there are several things wrong here. First, had major public figures never weighed in on the situation one cannot help but question whether or not the Georgia officials would have pursued the case? Would they simply have swept it under the rug as they initially intended to? Is the publics opinion (specifically that of celebrities) more important than truly and equally enforcing the law? Secondly, a formal conviction has yet to be made. The two-month delay is a disappointing failure of justice all on its own, but beyond that the case’s outcome is legitimately uncertain. Georgia’s laws allow open carry, citizen’s arrests and lethal force in self defense. That could very well give the McMichaels enough plausible deniability to walk free. And that is utterly frightening and sickening.
Other celebrities, such as Pusha T and Pedro Pascal, have shared a petition that demands justice for Arbery’s murder. As of today, the petition has garnered 1,557,812 signatures of the 1,750,000 needed. Our hope is that this petitions pushes the jury to deliver the appropriate charges for this conviction.
Furthermore, if you’re looking for more ways to help and spread the word, Arbery’s best friend has organized an online fundraiser for Arbery’s family.