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Ga. Lawmakers Push For Stalled Hate Crimes Bill To Pass, Be Renamed For Ahmaud Arbery

About a hundred people and state lawmakers gathered at the Historic Brunswick Courthouse to push for a stalled hate crimes bill to be passed and renamed for Ahmaud Arbery.
About a hundred people and state lawmakers gathered at the Historic Brunswick Courthouse to push for a stalled hate crimes bill to be passed and renamed for Ahmaud Arbery.
Credit Emma Hurt / WABE
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Some Georgia lawmakers are calling for a stalled hate crimes bill to be passed and renamed for Ahmaud Arbery, the young man who was killed while jogging in suburban Brunswick in February.

That bill has been stuck in a Senate committee since it passed the Georgia House more than a year ago.

Georgia is one of four states in the country without a hate crimes bill.

Akeem Baker, Ahmaud Arbery’s friend, and Jason Vaughn, Arbery’s former high school football coach, were among the people who attended the rally to push for the Georgia Hate Crimes Act to be renamed for Arbery. (Emma Hurt/WABE)

At a rally on the steps of the Historic Brunswick Courthouse, Democratic state lawmakers said they hope to amend the bill to rename it for Arbery and to include a provision that would abolish Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, which has been used to defend the men who have now been arrested in Arbery’s killing.

“If you’re going to amend the bill, we have to get rid of citizen’s arrest because we can’t have this happen again in this country and certainly not in this state of Georgia,” said Democratic state Rep. James Beverly.

“We’re standing ready to move forward. We want justice,” said state Rep. Al Williams, a Democrat who echoed the call for the elimination of the citizen’s arrest law.

“There is no place for lawlessness and vigilantism. There is no way that I’ve got to be terrified every time one of my five sons are out just because they happen to be African American.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Chuck Efstration, also called on the Senate to push the bill through last week.

“Members of the Georgia House will be monitoring the Ahmaud Arbery case to see if we may need to review the law on ‘citizen arrests’ and other issues,” he said in a statement.  “It is now time for the Georgia Senate to do the right thing and pass the Georgia Hate Crimes Act without delay.”

House Speaker David Ralston told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday he would like the bill to pass with “with no delay and no amendments.”

“We need to put pressure on the entire committee,” said state Sen. Lester Jackson of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the hate crimes bill has been sitting. “The people of Georgia want a vote.”

The General Assembly will only have 11 days left when it returns, after being suspended since mid-March because of the pandemic. The Georgia House will reconvene June 11; the state Senate has not yet affirmed that date.