By: Matsemela Odom, Africans Charge Genocide Chair
Ahmaud Arbery died on his feet, refusing to cower in the face of white power.
On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was lynched by father and son George McMichael and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan. At the time, Ahmaud was jogging down Holmes Road in Brunswick, Glynn County, Georgia.
An alumnus of Brunswick High School and South Georgia Technical College, Ahmaud was an avid exerciser. He was known to jog around his neighborhood. While jogging, Ahmaud stopped at the site of a new house under construction to rest, according to captured video.
While Ahmaud continued his jog, the McMichaels chased him, armed with a shotgun, a .357 Magnum revolver and a pickup truck. William Bryan assisted in the chase, eventually turning on his camera to record from his truck.
Ahmaud attempted to run away from the two trucks, which repeatedly cut him off and prevented him from leaving the neighborhood. He dodged the trucks a number of times until Bryan hit him with the side of his truck.
According to reports, the McMichaels fired a shot into Ahmaud and then a struggle ensued. After a second shot, Ahmaud continued to fight, attempting to grab the shotgun from Travis McMichael. Even after the third shot, he continued to fight for his freedom to live, punching towards McMichael’s head.
Then Ahmaud collapsed from his fatal wounds and died.
Ahmaud died from three gunshot wounds, two to his chest and one to his wrist.
Ahmaud was lynched twice, by the McMichaels and Bryan and then by the DA
As is usual, Ahmaud Arbery was lynched twice. First by the McMichaels and Bryan gang and then by the district attorney’s office.
Someone called 9-1-1 during the chase, but did not call to report the lynching mob. Instead, it was a call accusing Ahmaud of being a burglar, though the caller admitted that Ahmaud had not broken into the property. Video evidence later released also proves Ahmaud did not forcibly enter and had stolen nothing.
Despite the evidence, when cops had proposed arresting the McMichaels, local district attorneys Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill attempted to cover up Ahmaud’s murder, claiming it was self-defense against a burglary suspect.
George McMichael, a retired cop and criminal investigator, and his son were interviewed and allowed to leave. On February 24, Barnhill declared the murder justifiable homicide, effectively lynching Ahmaud a second time.
Again on April 2, Barnhill declared in a memorandum: “The autopsy supports the initial opinion we gave you on February 24, at the briefing room in the Glynn County Police Department after reviewing the evidence you had at that time. We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties.”
Barnhill misrepresented the video of Arbery visiting the construction site as evidence of burglary and for good measure added to justification of his murder by saying that Ahmaud’s family members were “not strangers to the local criminal justice system.”
Like Ahmaud, Africans fought back
Ahmaud’s family, local activists and county officials refused to accept the obstruction by local authorities.
After Barnhill declined to prosecute again, the Arbery family organized on social media and spread Ahmaud’s story. On April 4, Ahmaud’s family created a Facebook page and the hashtag #justiceforahmaud began trending.
Much like the brave Africans (black people) who have dared exposure to COVID-19 in response to the lynching of George Floyd, Africans led the support campaign for Ahmaud and organized running clubs. The hashtag #irunwithahmaud began trending as people around the world began to honor Ahmaud by running 2.23 miles, the amount run by Ahmaud on the day the McMichaels and Bryan murdered him.
African people forced the actions of local and state officials in Georgia, who reopened the case and which led to the arrests of the McMichaels on May 7. Two weeks later on May 22, Bryan was also arrested.
Ahmaud died from colonial violence
Ahmaud Arbery was not the victim of racism. Ahmaud was the victim of colonialism.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela notes: “What is called racism is simply the ideological foundation of capitalist imperialism. Racism is a concept that denies Africans our national identity and dignity, rather than defining the system of our oppression.”
While the ideas of racism may be used to justify our oppression, it is colonialism—the oppressive and exploitative relationship we have with American and European white power itself—that we have to fight against.
When Ahmaud chose to put his fists up and fight back against the lynching attack from the McMichaels and Bryan, he was fighting against a history of white power colonialism and for African liberation.
Brunswick is a coastal city almost equally distanced between Jacksonville, Florida to the south and Savannah, Georgia to the north. Brunswick is a predominantly African city in a predominantly white North American county.
While Africans comprise almost 60 percent of Brunswick compared to the 32 percent white population, Africans make up 26 percent of the county compared to the near 70 percent population of whites. The median household income in Glynn County is about $46,000 while the median family income of the African colony in Brunswick is around half the county median at $24,400.
Glynn County is one of the first eight counties organized in Georgia. Georgia was a white settler colony for prisoners and other outcasts from England. It was the last state to allow slavery only because it was organized as a buffer between the revolutionary African maroons in Florida and South Carolina following the Stono Rebellion of 1739. Florida and Georgia became centers of the U.S. slave empire.
St. Simons Island, 12 miles east of Brunswick, was a center of black self-determination following the U.S. Civil War until it was crushed by white power and the land in the region was returned to slave owners.
South Georgia is the place where the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) defended Dessie Woods in the late 1970s. Dessie Woods was a courageous African woman sentenced to 22 years for defending herself from a white man who tried to rape her, killing him with his own gun.
The APSP took the fight into this region so brutal “that some white plantation owners had their own private jails used to punish Africans.” The Party’s slogan was “Free Dessie Woods, Smash Colonial Violence.” Like Ahmaud, Dessie Woods was a victim of colonialism. The anti-colonial African liberation struggle of the APSP eventually freed Dessie Woods in 1981.
Smash colonial violence; demand Black Community Control of the Police
The solution to colonial violence that killed Ahmaud Arbery is the same solution to the colonial violence terrorizing African people globally. Only overthrowing colonialism and parasitic capitalism and seizing power in the hands of the African working class will free us.
If Ahmaud’s killers are imprisoned, it will be because he, his family and our people chose to fight back, not plead for kinder, less “racist” oppressors.
Africans in Brunswick and far beyond need to demand Black Community Control of the Police.
The lynching of Ahmaud Arbery is one of many, a continuation of genocide against our people. The APSP has created the Africans Charge Genocide (ACG) campaign and petition to charge the U.S. with genocide.
Regardless of the outcome of white power’s trial, we Africans should hold our own tribunal and declare the McMichaels and Bryan guilty, taking justice in the hands of African people.
Ahmaud died from the colonial virus; the cure is Black Power.
Demand Black Community Control of the Police!
Charge the U.S. with genocide against African people!
Sign the ACG petition at AfricansChargeGenocide.org
Build an Africans Charge Genocide working group in Brunswick and beyond!
Join the African People’s Socialist Party at apspuhuru.org