Supporters from across the country traveled to the Glynn County Courthouse Thursday to join pastors in a prayer vigil, in response to remarks by defense attorney Kevin Gough last week during a trial of three White men accused in the killing of 25-year-old Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.
Gough asked the trial judge to ban Black ministers from the courtroom after the Rev. Al Sharpton sat with Arbery’s family the previous day. Gough represents William “Roddie” Bryan, who drove a pickup truck pursuing Arbery before the deadly confrontation with co-defendants, Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael.
Clergy members and supporters of the Arbery family, began arriving as early as 9 a.m. Many were seen silently pacing in anticipation about the day of events before them.
Brunswick residents Wanda Rodgers and Destiny Henry solemnly waited the arrival of the clergy. Rodgers voiced she believed the death of Ahmaud was unifying the community.
“I feel safe in my community, it (the trial) is unifying us… It’s racism to a certain extent, but justice will be served,” she said.
As the gloomy sky turned into a warm Brunswick day, allies with signage proudly came into the barricaded areas in front of the courthouse.
At 11 a.m. protestors and demonstrators marched into the surrounding courthouse areas setting up tents, signs, and stations in support of Arbery. It was the largest crowd gathered during the trial at the courthouse, with estimates ranging up to 750 people.
Guest speakers the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jessie Jackson, and Martin Luther King, III, spoke to the early afternoon crowd at the courthouse. Web streams allowed advocates from across the nation had a chance to hear them speak alongside the Arbery family.
Emory Magel, a Colorado native and who now lives in Athens, Georgia, spoke on the atmosphere in the overflow courtroom for the past three days and shared a different view.
“I’m a runner and it’s hard to listen to the trial without wanting to throw something at the screen,” Magel said. The overflow courtroom was set up in a building outside the courthouse to accommodate the large number of observers for the trial.
Diane Cedarleaf, a Massachusetts woman, shared her views and carried a sign that supported Arbery.
“It’s too common, it’s too accepted, and it has to stop,” Cedarleaf said. “One young man (Ahmaud Arbery) doing nothing harmful (just) jogging (and) because people are suspicious, and they have strange preconceptions arm up and go after him … If people like me coming out makes a difference, then there’s strength in numbers.”
As clergy from across the nation poured onto the court grounds in full affect around 11:30 a.m. in preparation of the vigil, one attendee was Glynn Academy alumnus and former NBA No. 1 draft pick, Kwame Brown who was capturing his visit live to post on his YouTube channel, “Kwame Brown Bust Life.”
“It seems as if it’s okay for us to get slaughtered. Black males die every day and some cases get covered over others, but it’s happening every day,” Brown said.
The trial continues Monday as prosecution and defense attorneys present closing statements to the jury. The murder case is expected to go to the jury by mid-week.