SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The controversial shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick is prompting some state lawmakers to take a stand on repealing the 1800’s era Citizen’s Arrest Law.
Rep. Carl Gilliard, a Democrat from Garden City, is sponsoring legislation to get rid of what he calls an antiquated law that “goes back to the Wild Wild West.” Gilliard is being joined by two other Democrats and two Republicans in trying to bring a bill this session to repeal the law.
“We are standing here today at a defining moment and the message is move Georgia forward,” said Gilliard.
Arbery, an African American man who was jogging, was chased by two white men, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his son, 34-year-old Travis McMichael. The McMichaels told police they thought Arbery matched the description of a burglary suspect. A third man, 50-year-old William Bryan, joined the McMichaels in pursuing Arbery through the Satillia Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, eventually aiding the McMichaels in blocking Arbery’s path with their pickups.
Arbery was shot and killed during an altercation with the younger McMichael and all three were eventually charged in connection with Arbery’s death.
One of the lawmakers sponsoring the legislation says the current Citizen’s Arrest Law is a “license to kill.” Gilliard told reporters on Friday that citizens cannot be the “judge and jury” for others in the heat of the moment.
“When you are an individual that’s some 20 odd years of age and individuals are blocking you in with cars. that’s called hunting,” said Gilliard. “That’s the Wild West mentality that we’re talking about.”
“This law needs to be repealed now,” Gilliard continued. “We cannot bring Arbery back but as we move forward we can say never again that this can happen that individuals will take justice into their own hands .”
Gilliard is hopeful the legislation will least be introduced this year and is calling on people who support a repeal to let their lawmakers know.
“It’s going to take the power of the people to surpass the march, surpass the protest and to lobby their legislators and use the power of their vote,” he said.
Gilliard also said a hate crime law in Georgia should be passed this year and that a bill already passed in the Georgia House is in the Senate.
“We need to ask the senators why that bill has not been passed,” said Gilliard.