The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is calling for Georgia to institute a hate crimes law after the shooting and murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.
Arbery, a black man, was jogging in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 25 when he was chased down and shot to death by two white men, a father and son: retired police officer Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34.
The two were arrested by Glynn County police on Thursday (May 7) and charged with murder and aggravated assault after a video of the murder surfaced on social media.
Despite clear evidence that the murder was hate-motivaTted, the two men will not face a hate crime charge, because Georgia is one of only four states in the country without a hate crime prevention law, according to USA Today. With a hate crimes prevention law, those who commit bias-based crimes will receive additional charges or enhanced penalties.
Alphonso David, the president of HRC, is calling for action to prevent future hate-based crimes from happening.
“Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down for being a black man, period,” David said. “Yet again, racism has led to the unjust death of a black man in our country. This is unconscionable, and we cannot allow racism and our woefully inadequate criminal justice system to lead to another mother losing her son or another community in mourning. Ahmaud’s killers must be brought to justice, and an important piece of that is bringing Georgia into the 21st century by passing a hate crimes prevention law. Additionally, Attorney General Barr must investigate this incident, considering the egregious behavior of prosecutors in this case and that Georgia continues to law a hate crimes law.”
Georgia’s lack of hate crime prevention legislation is an intersectional issue that has affected many in the LGBTQ community. In June 2019, gay man Ronald “Trey” Peters was attacked and shot after attackers shouted homophobic slurs at him, and in September 2019, LGBTQ artist Te’a Denise Liger was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Southwest Atlanta (although police contended that Liger was not targeted because of her sexual orientation).
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the federal legislation aimed at preventing hate crimes on the state and local level, defines a hate crime as “willfully causing bodily injury…when the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin…gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person.”