Murder is ‘devastating reminder’ of progress US needs to make on race, president says
President Joe Biden praised the jury’s verdict in the trial of three white men convicted on Wednesday of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was jogging through a Georgia neighborhood before being ambushed and attacked.
The president said in a statement that the verdict proved “the justice system is doing its job”, while noting that the killing of Mr Arbery was a reminder of how much progress America still needs to make on the issue of racism.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country,” Mr Biden said, adding that the young man should “be here today” with his family for the holidays.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans,” Mr Biden added.
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty of various charges related to Mr Arbery’s murder on Wednesday; Travis McMichael was found guilty of the worst offence, malice murder, while all three men were found guilty of other charges including felony murder, false imprisonment and aggravated assault.
The statement’s mention of the integrity and reverence for the US justice system mirrored remarks Mr Biden made to reporters after first hearing of the jury’s decision to acquit Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen who killed three during protests in Kenosha, Wis.
The president said after that news broke that he stood by the jury’s verdict, even as other Democrats including the chair of the House Judiciary Committee denounced it.
Vice President Kamala Harris released a separate statement, which made mention of the efforts by a defence attorney in the trial to bar prominent Black pastors including Reverend Al Sharpton from the courtroom.
“These verdicts send an important message, but the fact remains that we still have work to do. The defense counsel chose to set a tone that cast the attendance of ministers at the trial as intimidation and dehumanized a young Black man with racist tropes. The jury arrived at its verdicts despite these tactics,” she said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki remained defiant this week when questioned by a Fox News reporter about whether Mr Biden should apologise for his past depiction of Mr Rittenhouse in a campaign video that accused former President Donald Trump of not denouncing white supremacist groups. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, she noted that Mr Rittenhouse had posed for photos with members of the far-right Proud Boys group after his not guilty plea, a fact that a judge in his trial forbade prosecutors from sharing with the jury.
Protests erupted in Georgia after Mr Arbery’s killing last year. In recent days, demonstrators held peaceful rallies outside the Glynn County Courthouse in support of Mr Arbery’s family as the trial concluded.