Ahmaud Arbery is Responsible for His Own Death

On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was running in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, GA, when two decent, gun-toting  citizens followed him in their truck. And, because Arbery refused  to stop and answer Gregory and Travis McMichael’s questions, he was shot, in broad daylight, in what the McMichaels and their lawyers are asserting to be an act of self-defense.

Ahmaud Arbery is an African American resident of the extended neighborhood, and he likes to run.

The father son McMichael team  are a former cop and former coast guard ensign; they are white, they carry guns, spend much time viewing security recordings, and consider themselves to be the neighborhood’s armed guardians.

And, because there had been a rash of petty thefts (mostly from cars) in the neighborhood, and because the security system in a house under construction showed several curious citizens of all ages, including Arbery, walk through the house at different times of the day, the McMichaels took it upon themselves to conclude that Arberry was responsible for the recurring thefts.

At no time did the video recordings show Arbery to have lifted or walked out with anything.

To listen to the McMichaels’  defense attorneys and to William Bryan’s attorney, one is led to believe that these neighborhood vigilantes were performing their civic duty. Joining the McMichaels in their hounding of Arberry, Bryan joined the stalking team in his own truck; he witnessed and taped the events.

To help portray Arbery as the aggressor, the lawyers deftly presented the murderer as a decent citizen performing his duties under the duress of having to stop and question the neighborhood thief in what had been a traumatic yet responsible administration of the law.

Having a shotgun pointed at him, Arbery, we were told, reached for the gun and, in a justifiable act of defense, McMichael  shot the unarmed runner not once, but three times. In Cold Blood.

Unfortunately, Arbery is not able to give his side of the story.

Last Friday Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Guogh,  had the gall to state that Arbery was responsible for his own death. Had he responded to the questions or, better yet, had he walked behind the safety of a mail box – or, had he sought refuge in the adjacent yard, Arbery might have saved his own life.

Kevin Guogh impresses me as a slick bigot with a talent for hectoring everyone, including the judge. His repeated motions to limit the number of black preachers in the court room (as well as outside the court room – a public space) and his repeated charges that protestors were influencing the jury where the dog whistles of a bigoted and racist bully. The New York Times profiled Kevin Guogh for what he is: a hectoring racist whose repeated references to racial profiling and innuendo “seem to fit a pattern of provocation from a lawyer who, both during this trial and long before, seems to thrive on it.”  Further, “Gough’s demeanor ‘most closely resembles that of an aw-shucks country lawyer character from the movies, with a voice that honks and drawls and tends to ladle on the folksiness.’”

In my opinion Guogh’s tactics of baiting Arbery supporters worked. He wanted to bait the Reverend Jackson and other black preachers into showing up in force – as they have done. I also believe that he was trying to influence the media and possibly the un-sequestered jury. And repeated requests for mistrials were yet another tactic for a future appeal – should the defendants be convicted..

The parade of housewives, mothers, grandmothers, professional women, all of whom were white, was perhaps the most sinister stacking the cards. Each of the lily white women who resided in this lily white neighborhood  gave extended dissertations on the cohesive spirit that permeated the Satilla Shores neighborhood. They talked about their church attendance and their families’ involvement in myriad church activities. They also talked about the following: home schooling, not allowing their children to wander off (even though video footage showed children wandering through the house under construction). They bragged about their packing heat  (in broad daylight) because of perceived fear, about backyard picnics, about taking care of each others’ children – when needed, and about neighbor helping neighbor in a variety of ways, including extended descriptions of how each of them communicated with the other through Facebook. The neighborhood, the jury was told, was once a haven of harmony and security, a community where the elderly and young children took evening walks without the threat of outsiders – especially black runners – disrupting this perfect community.

Things get worse; a homeless person living under a bridge is brought in to highlight the community’s fears. There was trash under the bridge, and a machete was in the location. This was a person “who had no reason to be there, [inference Arbery could be that person]” attorney Silver Tongue charged, ever so sanctimoniously. Further, that person “looked drunk and on drugs [inference Arbery committed a burglary to support his drug pronlem.the crim.”

And all this serene and cloistered lily-white idyllic neighborhood had to be put on notice: a young, black runner had been spotted in the neighborhood. He no doubt fits the profile of the would-be molester, the would be-rapist, and certainly the  burglar who’s committed the Satilla Shores burglaries. After all, the children of white middle class neighborhoods study hard, they don’t steal to help support  drug habits, they attend Sunday School and church activities regularly, and the catholic ones have to attend weekly  confession sessions.

Based on the observations of these fine Lily White Ladies and this fine citizen who risked his life to protect you and your community, You, the 11 white Ladies and Gentlemen of this jury, must acquit the two men whose vigilance in protecting your neighborhood, protecting you, and your families is to be held up as an act of unselfish altruism.

You must acquit these defenders of the status quo.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. halabys7181@outlook.com