More than two years ago, Transformative Justice Coalition President and Founder Barbara Arnwine and Board Chair Daryl Jones surrounded the family of Ahmaud Arbery.
The two attorneys, Arnwine and Jones, did not seek to legally represent the family, but to offer the encouragement and bolster the resolve they needed to get justice for the 25-year-old shot dead in Brunswick, Georgia.
“When we first interacted with the family, they were hesitant to get involved,” Jones told NNPA Newswire after the sentencing of Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William Bryan.
“They thought they would do anything in this case and there would be acquittals. But we were able to work with the family to stiffen their spines and stand with them and walk with them and talk with them. [The result] is that they’ve become very strong advocates,” Jones said.
United States District Court Judge Lisa Wood handed down life sentences to Travis and Greg McMichael and sentenced Bryan to 35 years.
A federal jury found the men guilty of federal hate crimes. They were also convicted in state court and sentenced to life without parole for those convictions.
Over the objections of the defendants, Judge Wood ordered the men to serve their sentences in the harsher environment of state prison.
“This is a major victory to hold these men accountable for a racial hate killing,” Arnwine said. “People don’t understand that if anything goes wrong with the state’s verdict, a reversal, they now have to somehow face federal charges. It’s like having two padlocks on the door.
Arnwine called the father/son duo McMichael and Bryan symbols of hate.
“They will forever be a symbol of hate in this country,” Arnwine said. “The Arbery family will forever be symbols of justice – fighters who refused to be lied to and people who refused to believe the worst about their son. They asked for justice and they persisted.
Both Arnwine and Jones were in the courtroom when Wood announced the sentencing and each called the decision a powerful moment.
“For the past two years we have been the family counselors and have mobilized hundreds of people to come to Brunswick to raise this tragedy and seek justice,” Arnwine said. “For the Transformative Justice Coalition, for the hundreds of people who came out to seek justice, for the Arbery family without whom there would have been no murder or hate crime case, but for them and their perseverance, today oday was a time of judgment. It was judgment day. A day in which the racist murderers of Ahmaud Arbery were held accountable in a very powerful way.
Jones said Arbery’s family expressed relief.
“We were thrilled to hear the sentencing. This ensures that both McMichael and Bryan will not be released from prison for the rest of their lives,” Jones said. “The Arbery family has shown this country how to be strong in the face of adversity. They weren’t looking for publicity – they were thrown into this fight.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., who worked with the Transformative Justice Coalition to get 10 million new black Americans to register to vote, pledged to keep Arbery’s memory alive.
“The NNPA gives due consideration to the additional federal prison sentence awarded to the brutal and convicted murderers of Ahmaud Arbery,” Dr. Chavis said. “We stand with the family of Ahmaud Arbery and their lawyers who have stood strong and vigilant in demanding justice. We are committed to keeping alive the memory of Ahmaud and the legacy of all who have been murdered by the ruthless terrorist acts of racists in America.