SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Gov. Brian Kemp has signed a bill repealing Georgia’s Civil War-era citizen’s arrest law.
This comes a year after the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man pursued by white men who said they suspected he was a burglar in their Brunswick neighborhood.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and his sister were in attendance for Monday’s signing of HB 479.
“On behalf of all Georgians, I want to thank you both for being here,” the governor said. “People all over this state and nation, the Kemp family included have been praying for you and your loved ones the past year.”
The state House and Senate passed the repeal by overwhelming margins after Arbery’s killing.
“So often we spend time under the gold dome arguing over differences, but the outpouring of bipartisan support that this bill received, I believe, is a testament to the fundamental character of our state,” Kemp said.
This means bystanders in Georgia can no longer make an arrest if a crime is committed in their presence. It still provides for self-defense and allows business owners to detain suspected thieves.
Georgia also passed a hate crimes law last year. State Rep. Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City), who sponsored both bills, said he’s “overwhelmingly thankful” for Monday’s signing.
“This law that played a role in the unfair detainment and lynching of African Americans has shined a bright light for a new Georgia,” Gilliard stated. “Repealing Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute is just the beginning.”
He said he’s working with lawmakers in New York and South Carolina to repeal similar laws.
“Now, Georgia moves forward to become the state that is too busy to hate,” Gilliard said.
The Associated Press contributed