“This Was a Lynching”: Atlanta Mayor Holds Trump’s America Accountable for the Ahmaud Arbery Shooting

A Black man was shot while jogging, and no one was arrested for two months.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described the shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a “lynching.” “It’s heartbreaking that it’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African American man,” she said, adding, “It’s part of a bigger issue that we’re having in this country.”

“With the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House, in so many ways, I think many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way that we otherwise would not see in 2020.” 

Two white men, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, allegedly shot and killed Arbery on February 23 while Arbery was jogging through their neighborhood. But the father and son weren’t arrested and charged with murder until Thursday, after a video of the incident went viral.

As my colleague Nathalie Baptiste writes, the killing—and subsequent outrage—is part of a disturbing pattern in the United States. “By treating every single senseless death, every single racial profiling incident, every attack on Black people, every example of the disproportionate vulnerability of people of color to economic and now coronavirus devastation as some aberration,” she argues, “America is given a kind of absolution. Our racist society is off the hook.”

Baptiste continues: “Is there anything new to be said about the killing of young Black men who are engaged in everyday activities until they attract the attention of white people who feel threatened and decide to kill them? How many times can we decry racism and beg to be seen as fully human?”

Bottoms’ characterization of the event echoes that of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who, in an interview with Mother Jones just hours before the McMichaels were charged, called for justice for Arbery. “What we saw happen in that video, what I read about in those stories, is a violation of every notion of decency and justice,” Abrams said. “It was murder.”

If it weren’t for the footage of the event, Bottoms said, she didn’t think that Gregory and Travis McMichael would ever have been charged. As Slate’s Daniel Politi reports, the man who recorded the video is receiving threats:

The attorney of the man who recorded the video of Arbery’s killing said Saturday that his client is receiving threats that coincide with authorities announcing that he is also under investigation. William “Roddie” Bryan shared the 36-second video with police that was later described as a key piece of evidence. “Mr. Bryan videotaped what was going on and because he did that, there is a prosecution,” Kevin Gough said. “If he had not videotaped that incident, the only person who really could speak to what happened is dead and we’ll never have that opportunity. That video is the prosecution.” 

Bottoms also said her own family is scared. “I have four kids, three of whom are African-American boys,” she said. “They are afraid, they are angry.”

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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