Lawmakers stand with Arbery family, call for hate crime law and DA removal

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BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WSAV) – A group of state lawmakers met with the family of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick Tuesday promising justice in the 25-year-old’s death.

A new push for hate crime legislation is top of mind for the group after the recent arrest of two white men for the murder of Arbery, who is African American.

The men have said they pursued Arbery through their neighborhood on Feb. 23 believing him to be a burglary suspect. They told police they planned to hold him by making a citizen’s arrest.

Arbery’s family says he was just out for a jog.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has called for the Department of Justice and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate possible misconduct on the part of two area district attorneys handling the case.

Both prosecutors, Jackie Johnson of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit and George Barnhill of the Waycross Judicial Circuit, recused themselves.

Johnson did so within a few days of the shooting. Barnhill recused himself in early April but at the same time, he offered an opinion that charges should not be filed in the case.

Arrests came more than two months after the shooting when state investigators became involved last week.

Sen. Lester Jackson, a Democrat from Savannah, was one of the lawmakers who made the trip to Brunswick. He called on Johnson and Barnhill to be removed by the governor.

“They did not do their job, they did not serve justice,” Jackson said.

He and others also vowed to push for passage of a hate crimes law this year.

“Georgia is one of only four states in the nation that does not have a hate crimes law,” said Jackson. “How Georgia treats its citizens is worldwide news.”

Rep. Al Williams, a Democrat from Midway, says in addition to fighting for passage of hate crime legislation, he will work to abolish the citizen’s arrest law.

“We must deal with the citizen’s arrest law that has resulted in vigilantes,” Williams said.

“We cannot deal with lawlessness and vigilantism,” he continued, “I should not be terrified every time one of my five sons leaves home.”

Several lawmakers say if hate crime legislation is passed that it should be named for Arbery.

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