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As the trial for Ahmaud Arbery's killing starts, activists from across the country are showing up to support him and his family

CNN logo CNN 10/31/2021 By Angela Barajas, CNN
Loretta Elder traveled from Chicago to support the Arbery family as part of Transformative Justice Coaltion's week of action. © Angela Barajas/CNN Loretta Elder traveled from Chicago to support the Arbery family as part of Transformative Justice Coaltion's week of action.

"I love my people! I love my Black people!" said Marcus Arbery, Sr. this week as he neared the steps of the Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick, Georgia, during jury selection proceedings in the trial against the three men charged in the killing of his 25-year-old son Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia in February 2020.

Janice Braggs, center, demonstrates at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the defendants in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. © Sean Rayford/Getty Images Janice Braggs, center, demonstrates at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the defendants in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.

Arbery Sr. was speaking directly to a group of supporters who traveled to Brunswick from across the country to support the family.

"We love you too!" replied the small crowd surrounding him, some of them spontaneously embracing Arbery Sr.

The supporters are part of the Washington, DC, based group Transformative Justice Coalition, which says it "seeks to be a catalyst for transformative institutional changes that bring about justice & equality in the US & abroad."

The group, led by lawyers Barbara Arnwine and Darryl Jones, planned for a "week of action" organizing daily activities in support of the Arbery family to coincide with the start of jury selection. TJC bused in 70 people from cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Birmingham and Atlanta.

Among the things on their schedule was a visit, in coordination with local law enforcement, to the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, where Arbery was killed.

"This young man ran this route all the time," said Arnwine, standing on the same road Arbery ran. "They didn't know his name but they knew a Black man was running through the neighborhood."

The subdivision in the outskirts of Brunswick is just less than two miles from Arbery's former home.

Back in front of the courthouse, coalition members showed up every morning, proudly standing by a banner bearing the image of the late Congressman John Lewis.


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"We are fired up! Can't take it no more!" they chanted walking around the grounds of the courthouse.

"Ahmaud Arbery could've been anybody's child," said Lynn Whitfield, director of election protection at TJC.

Whitfield, who coordinates the on-the-ground efforts, was outside the courthouse every day since Monday.

She says TJC has pledged to support the Arbery family until a verdict is reached, with the organization's two co-founders accompanying Arbery Sr. to court every day.

Among those making the week-long commitment was Peggy Neely Harris, 65, from Ferguson, Missouri.

"We came all the way from several different states," said Neely Harris. "We wanted to make sure we boarded the bus to come here and support Ahmaud Arbery and his family, and see what we can do to make a smooth transition into justice. We believe it will be done."

She proudly wore a pin with Rep. Lewis' image with the words "make good trouble" printed in blue.

"He left a legacy that we can't do anything but support," said Neely Harris.

Inside the courthouse, several defense attorneys complained to the judge about the banners, signs and demonstrators in support of the Arbery family on court grounds.

An attorney for Travis McMichael, one of the three defendants, said he was concerned the signs and demonstrations were "an unconscious attempt to influence any jurors."

Chatham Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley responded saying the courthouse grounds are public space.

He then asked the objecting defense attorneys to draft a legal motion "walking me through the First Amendment rights you seek to infringe upon and how you intend to do this."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Lynn Whitfield, director of election protection at the Transformative Justice Coalition.

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