Ga. lawmakers pushing for hate crime law

Ga. lawmakers pushing for hate crime law
Several Ga. lawmakers spoke Tuesday in Brunswick about the Arbery case and introducing hate crime legislation in the state. (Source: WTOC)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WTOC) - A few Georgia lawmakers are pushing for hate crime legislation in the state in response to Ahmaud Arbery’s death.

Legislators joined together in Brunswick Tuesday to address the shooting.

Georgia is one of only four states without hate crime laws. The state lawmakers, who represent Liberty and Chatham counties, spoke in front of Arbery’s family and community members saying they plan to put pressure on the State Senate once the General Assembly reconvenes.

Hate crime legislation passed the State House last year. The State Senate never took a vote.

Representative Al Williams, Senator Lester Jackson and Bishop Reginald Jackson say this is an embarrassment for Georgia, referencing perceived hate crimes that have happened in the state.

Legislators have come up with an action plan asking for several things. First, the removals of Brunswick DA Jackie Johnson and Waycross DA George Barnhill Sr.

“We cannot continue to leave the fox in the hen house, with the alleged corruption going on in Coastal Georgia,” Sen. Jackson said.

Not only do they want to push the hate crimes bill through the senate, they want it named after Arbery.

Lawmakers also say the citizen’s arrest law needs to be removed. Rep. Williams called it vigilantism.

In a letter sent to the Glynn County Police Department in early April, Barnhill said the McMichaels acted within the law to make a citizen's arrest on Arbery.

Rep. Williams said it’s time for a change, vowing to the Arbery family that they will get justice.

“We stand with you. We support you, and we want you to know that. We’re not here for a week. We are here for a new day in Georgia,” Rep. Williams said.

Rep. Beverly is confident in the legislation, saying Georgians are realizing prejudice still exists in the state.

“It’s not just a Democratic issue or black or white issue. It is a Georgia issue,” he said.

Lawmakers are asking community members to call their state senators to help the bill move through the committee.

Republican Representative Ron Stephens from Savannah co-sponsored the bill last year. It aimed to change how crimes involving bias or prejudice are punished in Georgia.

Georgia and South Carolina are among only four states in the US without any hate crime legislation.

An Atlanta Councilman was also in attendance Tuesday. He presented a proclamation to the Arbery family. From now on, in Atlanta, May 8 – which is Arbery’s birthday - will be “Ahmaud Arbery Day.”

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