Officials designated a 2.7-mile stretch in Brunswick, Georgia, as Honorary Ahmaud Arbery Street, vowing to never forget his death
A crowd of dozens chanted on a sweltering street corner Tuesday as Ahmaud Arbery’s hometown unveiled new street signs honoring the young Black man who was murdered after being chased by three white men and shot in a nearby Georgia neighborhood – a crime local officials vowed to never forget.
Arbery’s parents joined the memorialization the day after the men responsible for their son’s death received stiff prison sentences in US district court for committing federal hate crimes.
Officials in coastal Brunswick, where Arbery grew up, have ordered that intersections along all 2.7 miles of Albany Street will have additional signs designating it as Honorary Ahmaud Arbery Street.
The first two signs were unveiled Tuesday at an intersection near the Brunswick African-American cultural center, where one wall is adorned with a giant mural of Arbery’s smiling face.
“That’s an honor, is all I can say,” said Brenda Davis, a dock worker at Brunswick’s busy seaport who lives on Albany Street along a stretch of modest brick and cinder block homes. “He means something to everybody, though a lot of people didn’t know him.”
Arbery was killed on 23 February 2020, after the avid jogger was spotted running in the Satilla Shores subdivision not far from his mother’s house. A white father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, grabbed guns and used a pickup truck to chase after Arbery, claiming they thought he was burglar. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.
No arrests were made for more than two months, until the graphic cellphone video leaked online and Georgia state investigators took over the case from local police.
Arbery’s death reverberated far beyond Brunswick as protests erupted across the US and internationally over killings of Black people, especially by police, such as George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, or racist vigilantes.
Brunswick city commissioners voted in December to place Arbery’s name on a city street with a resolution proclaiming that he had become “a symbol of strength and unity within our community”.
“We did this because we want to always remember what happened,” Cornell Harvey, who was Brunswick’s mayor when the street designation was adopted, said Tuesday. “You say, ‘Why would you want to remember such a tragedy?’ Because sometimes it takes that to make a change. I am so sorry for the family … but history has seized us,” Harvey added.
The crowd chanted “Long live Ahmaud Arbery!” as his mother and father tugged on opposite ends of a blue covering to reveal the new street sign bearing their son’s name underneath.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said that although she still mourns his death, she also takes pride in what’s been accomplished in its wake.
Georgia adopted a hate crimes law imposing additional penalties for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation or other factors. And state lawmakers gutted an 1863 state law authorizing private citizens to make arrests, which Arbery’s pursuers had sought to use to justify the deadly chase.
“I look at the change Ahmaud has brought since his passing,” Cooper-Jones told crowd.