Law/Justice

Arbery’s Killers Are Using the Logic of Slave Patrols to Defend Themselves

Truthout

The testimony has concluded in the Georgia murder trial of the three white men who targeted Ahmaud Arbery because he was Black and then killed him. Evidence presented at trial transported us back to the days of the infamous slave patrols. Gregory McMichael, his son Travis, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. are on trial for killing Arbery on February 23, 2020, during a purported “citizen’s arrest.”

Racism has infected every aspect of this case — from the defendants’ racial profiling of Arbery, to the 10-week delay in filing charges, to the seating of a nearly all-white jury, to the defendants’ racist statements, to the defense’s attempt to ban Black pastors from attending the trial.

Beginning in 1704, slave patrols empowered every white person to control the movements and activities of every Black person. Citizen’s arrest laws date back to 13th century Europe and were later brought to the British North American colonies. In 1863, Georgia adopted a citizen’s arrest statute to replace the slave patrols with another avenue to vigilante “justice.” The law deputized any white Georgian to seize and detain any Black person on suspicion of being an escaped slave.

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