By Danny R. Johnson/Political News Editor
ATLANTA–Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms blamed the Trump administration, in a Sunday CNN interview, for enabling racist acts like the one that killed Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black jogger who was killed by two white men in February in southern Georgia.
Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23 when two men chased him in a pickup and shot him, allegedly believing he was a neighborhood burglar; when a video of the murder was posted on social media by a local defense lawyer last week, it sparked outrage from politicians, celebrities and the NAACP—and Gregory, 64 and Travis McMichael, 34 were arrested on Thursday as murder suspects.
Bottoms, a Democrat who is reportedly being considered as a running mate for Joe Biden, said that even if local police had not arrested the individuals who killed Arbery, there historically has been the “backstop of our justice department to step in and make sure that people are properly prosecuted. We do not have that leadership at the top right now…It is disheartening.
“It’s part of a bigger issue we’re having in this country,” said Bottoms in the interview. “With the rhetoric we’re hearing coming out of the White House, many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way that you would otherwise not see in 2020.” The mayor said that had the video of Arbery’s death not been released to the public, she believes “they would not be charged.”
Bottoms was elected mayor in 2018 as a career public servant, serving as a city councilmember and judge before taking charge of Georgia’s most populous city.
“Leadership at the top needs to care for all of our communities—not just in words, but in deeds as well,” said Bottoms. “It’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African-American man.”
Ahmaud Arbery was jogging on February 23 in Southern Georgia’s Glynn County when he was murdered, according to video evidence. Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on May 7 as suspects on charges of murder and aggravated assault and are being held in Glynn County Jail. The McMichaels said they were acting in self-defense—though the video shows that Arbery was unarmed; an attorney for the Arbery family tweeted, “it took 74 days but Ahmaud Arbery’s killers have finally been arrested!” while another lawyer for the family has called for a federal civil rights investigation.
Georgia’s attorney general has requested that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case.
“We are committed to a complete and transparent review of how the Ahmaud Arbery case was handled from the outset,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a news release. “The family, the community and the state of Georgia deserve answers, and we will work with others in law enforcement at the state and federal level to find those answers.”
Carr’s request to the DOJ includes an investigation of the “communications and discussions” between the first two district attorneys assigned to the case, both of whom have since recused themselves.
The Glynn County Police department has yet to comment on the delay in arrests on the case, but Gregory McMichael, who retired last year, served as a Glynn County police officer starting in 1982 before becoming an investigator for the local prosecutor. According to the New York Times, cronyism and conflicts of interest between the McMichaels and the Glynn County Police Department delayed the arrests of the McMichaels.
On Friday, the tens of thousands tweeted using the hashtag #IRunWithMaud, going for 2.23-mile runs to protest Arbery’s February 23 death (as traditional protests do not conform with social distance), while celebrating his passion for jogging.