Runners across the country are seeking justice for and honoring the memory of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed on February 23 while he was on an afternoon run near his home in southeast Georgia.
Arbery, who friends and family say was a former high school football star and ran often to stay in shape, was confronted by two white men—a father and son who told police they thought Arbery was a suspect in neighborhood break-ins. After being chased down by the men in a truck, Arbery and the son struggled in the street over the son’s shotgun. Arbery was shot and died, according to the police report.
During the 911 call, a neighbor said that Arbery had stopped at a nearby house that was under construction, but police documents do not indicate that he was armed. The two men involved in the incident, Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested on Thursday and will face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They were taken into custody and booked into the Glynn County Jail. A third unnamed man in the police report has not been charged.
The arrests came after the prosecutor for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit had recused herself because Gregory McMichael once worked in her office. The case was then handed to the district attorney in Waycross, Georgia, who also recused himself because his son also worked for the Brunswick district attorney, potentially creating another conflict of interest. However the New York Times obtained a letter the D.A. wrote to the police department, stating that the McMichaels were within their legal rights to pursue “a burglary suspect,” and said that under state law, “a private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”
The matter was then assigned by the state attorney general’s office to the prosecutor, Tom Durden, and is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Public awareness and mounting outrage began escalating this week after a video of the incident started circulating. Celebrities and politicians took to social media to express concern and calls to action. Among those who raised awareness and expressed anger at the lack of attention for the case were high-profile members of the running community, some of whom questioned why media outlets that cover the sport, including Women’s Running, hadn’t covered the incident.
Alison Désir, founder of Harlem Run, requested that the media amplify the fears that black, indigenous, and people of color often experience regarding their safety on the run. Elite runners including Sara Hall, Aisha Praught Leer, Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, and others began reposting Désir’s calls for coverage and promoted the #IRunForMaud campaign to bring attention to his case.
Several initiatives have been set up for those who wish to support Arbery’s case, including an online petition and a channel for making phone calls to officials. Thousands of people across the country will run a 2.23-mile “dedication distance run” in Arbery’s honor on Friday, which would have been his 26th birthday.
Runners are asked to obey their local social distancing and coronavirus guidelines while running on Friday, as well as post messages and videos with the hashtag #IRunWithMaud.
Jason Vaughn, who was Arbery’s high school football coach, told CNN that the virtual run was a good way to unite in Arbery’s honor.
“With COVID-19 of course, we can’t have a demonstration where we all come together,” he said. “Any runner can identify with Maud, a guy who may have had a bad day, but he can go out there and hit the pavement and go jog.”