Over the past two weeks, hundreds of people have gathered outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia to protest the killing of unarmed Black jogger, Ahmaud Aubery.
Family, friends, social justice organizations, religious leaders, and a noticeable number of children have rallied to call for the shooters to be convicted.
Dozens of youth turned out to a May 8 protest in Brunswick. Photo by the author.
Twenty-five-year-old Arbery was jogging in the predominantly white neighborhood of Satilla Shores on February 23 when he was targeted, pursued, and gunned down by two white men in a pick up truck, while while another white man captured the murder on video. Arbery's shooting remained under the radar until the video showing the killing garnered national attention. By that point, the case had been quietly shuffled between three prosecutors as the first two recused themselves. It wasn't until May 7 that the two shooters were arrested and denied bond.
At a rally the next day, protestors received masks and hand sanitizer to remain within guidelines for COVID-19. Children lined the sidewalks and grassed areas around the courthouse with signs that read #IRUNWITHMAUD. While speakers delivered uplifting messages, some children rode hoverboards and others listened carefully. After each speech, "No Justice, No Peace!" echoed in the air as the audience chanted.
A child holds a sign calling for the men who shot Ahmaud Arbery to be convicted. Photo by the author.
Though they aren't often acknowledged in the public discourse around difficult issues like racism, the children were watching. There is a lesson to be learned by attending a rally, and although it is not the traditional school lesson it's a life lesson on humanity and social justice in our society. One 12-year-old shared his point of view, comparing the shooting to a lynching. We caught up with Ahren Lake and his mom, Sheri Lake after the rally.
Aminata Traore': What did you learn from the rally?
Ahren Lake: When I went to the rally, I didn't have big expectations and I thought it would be small and when I saw there were a lot of people I thought, "Oh people are actually getting into this."
I realized and had a feeling that there may have been some people there that were against what [the speakers] were saying. I was most suspicious of the [other] white people that were there. In the back, there were some white people that did not clap, were not wearing masks, and some I believe I have seen at rallies against wearing masks. I saw what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on the news and was afraid of that happening with anti-protesters coming to a protest.
AT: Why did you want to come?
AL: [My mom and I] were walking up Stone Mountain. And whenever I am there I am political because it is a confederate monument. So she had already told me previously about what happened and that there was going to be a rally. So I told her I wanted to come.
AT: What are your feelings about this case?
AL: What I have gotten from the video and news is it was not a case of self defense it was a straight up attack on Ahmaud Abery. They went and shot him. It wasn't a case of, "Oh he is going to attack us and shoot us with our gun." It was basically a lynching. They picked him out and said, "That guy is suspicious, let's shoot him." So they went up and shot him.
AT: What do you think should come out of the rally? Changes?
AL: The District Attorneys, the two that declined and the one that is doing the case currently should resign, I think all three of them should.* What they did is basically a cover up… I think they should resign because it's not fair for the family and Ahmaud Arbery's friends to know that their son or friend was killed and never gets justice. To the ones that shot him it should be a life sentence or worse… It's just wrong to kill someone and get away with it.
*Since this interview, the case was moved to the purview of a fourth prosecutor.
AT: Sheri, Why did you bring your child to the rally?
Sheri Lake : This is not made for tv. I don't judge how anyone teaches their kids. Frankly, he wanted to go more than I did. We came from Atlanta… got up that morning at 3 a.m. and drove down at 4. I have taken him to other things like the Trump election, Gay Pride, Women's March since he was little. When I go to vote, since Ahren was born he is with me. I try to expose [my kids] to action and discourse. I do not want them to feel like they need to follow what I think… but instead be exposed to things that are righteous and be aware.
#IRunWithMaud sign. Photo by the author.
The #IRUNWITHAHMAUD movement continues to grow in support. On Mother's Day, a caravan of more than 100 cars and motorcycles traveled from Savannah to Brunswick to rally against the shooting, and on March 16, a delegation organized by the Just Georgia Coalition traveled from Atlanta to call for justice in this case.
It will be an uphill battle. Nationwide, shootings of unarmed Black people have rarely led to convictions. In the South particularly, there are intricate relationships between government officials that avert them from providing liberty and justice for all people as the Pledge of Allegiance promises. But if 12-year-olds can recognize Arbery's murder as a modern-day lynching, there is hope for equality in the justice system.