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Ahmaud Arbery verdict represents 'progress' toward 'true justice,' civil rights leaders say

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A guilty verdict in the trial of the three white men charged with Ahmaud Arbery's murder last year in Georgia brought an eruption of praise on social media, from prominent political figures to civil rights organizations.

The predominantly white jury's decision was justice for Arbery's family, they said. It wasn't, however, the final step toward justice for people of color.

"Today’s verdict upholds a sense of accountability, but not true justice. True justice looks like a young Black man not having to worry about being harmed – or killed – while on a jog, while sleeping in his bed, while living what should be a very long life," Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, the first Black person to represent the state in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement. "Ahmaud should be with us today."

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Arbery's father, Marcus, described the jury's verdict as "progress" toward equal justice but cautioned that "we are nowhere close to the finish line."

Supporters gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse to celebrate the guilty verdict found in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial on Wednesday, Nov. 24, in Brunswick.

"After nearly two years of pain, suffering, and wondering if Ahmaud’s killers would be held to account, the Arbery family finally has some justice. Nothing will bring back Ahmaud, but his family will have some peace knowing the men who killed him will remain behind bars and can never inflict their brand of evil on another innocent soul," Crump said in a statement. "While today is not one for celebration, it is one for reflection."

He added, "This case, by all accounts, should have been opened and closed ... the violent stalking and lynching of Ahmaud Arbery was documented on video for the world to witness. But yet, because of the deep cracks, flaws, and biases in our systems, we were left to wonder if we would ever see justice."

Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, called the verdict "necessary." 

What we know: What were the charges in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery? When is sentencing?

“Through this conviction, the criminal justice system has begun to address the pervasive inequities that exist when it comes to the treatment of Black and brown people," Huang said in a statement. "However, the system and those responsible for prosecuting such crimes must face the reality that, while there was video documentation of this murder, that is not the case for most crimes that occur in our country.

“It is important to remember that the first prosecutor who reviewed this case, who had worked with Gregory McMichael, attempted to clear these men of all charges and is now facing criminal charges herself for her conduct in this case. If that sickening video had never become public, we almost certainly would not have had today's verdict, or any trial at all.

“The fact that justice was done in this case does not deny the reality that countless Black men are targeted and killed for no reason other than the color of their skin. Incidents like these will continue to occur until our criminal legal system is truly focused on combating anti-Black crime and white supremacy."

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called the verdict "long overdue" and that Arbery's death was "unnecessary and fueled by racist ideologies deeply engrained into the fabric of this nation."

"Generations of Black people have seen this time and time again, with the murder of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and many others," Johnson said in a statement. "The actions and events perpetrated by the McMichaels and William Bryan leading up to Ahmaud's death reflect a growing and deepening rift in America that will be its undoing if not addressed on a systemic level. We must fix what is genuinely harming our nation: white supremacy."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ahmaud Arbery verdict represents 'progress' toward 'true justice,' civil rights leaders say

© 2021 USA TODAY. All Rights Reserved.


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