Hundreds of pastors both rallied and prayed Thursday at the Georgia courthouse where three white men are on trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, gathering in response to a defense lawyer’s bid to keep Black ministers out of the courtroom.
As testimony resumed inside the Glynn County courthouse, with its four huge columns, arched windows and shaded lawn, a group of mostly Black ministers gathered outside — a sea of dark suits and white collars.
Many carried signs reading, “Black pastors matter,” and some wore buttons with Arbery’s picture and the hashtag they were using for the case, “#JusticeForAhmaud.” A vendor sold T-shirts under one tent while a woman under another offered water and snacks and asked people to put donations in a pickle jar.
The Rev. Al Sharpton announced the rally after a defense attorney intensified frustrations in the coastal Georgia community of Brunswick when he said he didn’t want “any more Black pastors” sitting in the courtroom with Arbery’s family.
As the crowd grew outside, the Rev. Jesse Jackson once again joined Arbery’s family in the courtroom. Criticizing the failed attempt to keep black pastors out of court, Sharpton told the rally that no one had question who is sitting with the defendants’ families.
“No lawyer can knock us out. Because no matter where you are, God is there,“ he said. “We are going to keep coming until we get justice.”
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Arbery family, predicted the defense would ask the judge for a mistrial because of the demonstration outside the courthouse.
“We need preachers to come pray for them in this insane situation, this inhumane situation,” he said.
The Rev. Gregory Edwards was broadcasting a Facebook Live video back to his friends in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he is pastor of the Resurrected Life Community Church, United Church of Christ. As soon as the call for pastors to come to Brunswick went out, Edwards said, he rearranged his schedule to fly down.
“I would have walked,” said Edwards, who also runs a multifaith, multiracial community organizing group. Edwards said he cried when he saw the video of Arbery’s shooting death and thought of his three Black adult sons.
“Through technology we have been forced to bear witness to the public executions of our Black brothers and sisters,” Edwards said.
A group of businesses in Brunswick and surrounding Glynn County joined together to provide a lunch of free barbecue sandwiches, shrimp and side dishes before the pastors rallied. Organizer Mike Mally said the group wanted to show that the community was united, not divided by race.
“We figured this was a good thing to do with all these visitors,” Mally said.
Cellphone video of Arbery’s death on Feb. 23, 2020, leaked online about two months later, deepening a national outcry over racial injustice. The defense contends Arbery was killed in self-defense.
The man who shot the 25-year-old Arbery, Travis McMichael, testified on Thursday that Arbery did not speak, show a weapon or threaten him in any way before he raised his shotgun and pointed it at him.