BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) – Ahmaud Arbery’s mother woke up on Thursday with a new, very important blessing on Thanksgiving Day.
But there will still be an empty chair at the family festivities. It’s a reminder that even though she feels justice was served when the three white men who helped shoot her son were convicted Wednesday of beating him and killing him as he ran through a coastal neighborhood in Georgia , she will never be made whole again because her son is gone.
“This is the second Thanksgiving we have had without Ahmaud. But at the same time, I am grateful. This is the first Thanksgiving we say we did justice to Ahmaud,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the Associated Press in a interview Thursday.
The three white men who chased and killed Arbery in Brunswick in February 2020 were all convicted of murder on Wednesday. They took Arbery into a corner after finding out he had been seen on a surveillance camera in a nearby house under construction and wanted to ask him about the recent burglaries in the area.
Arbery ran through the neighborhood and other areas near his home to clear his head. He had nothing in his hands and ran from the men for five minutes before one of them shot three times at him at close range with a shotgun. The men risk life in prison when they are later convicted, and a federal trial on hate crimes for them is scheduled for February.
Cooper-Jones said after reading the verdicts Wednesday, she thought of her son’s supporters at the Glynn County Courthouse every day, who shouted “Justice for Ahmaud!”
“I finally got a chance to come out of those courtroom doors and say, ‘We did it, we did it together,'” Cooper-Jones said.
Sitting next to Cooper-Jones when she heard the judge read guilty 23 times, sat the mother of Ronald Greene, a man from Louisiana who died in 2019 after being beaten and strangled by statstroopers after a high-speed chase . Troopers said Greene suffered his injuries in a crash, but his doctors reported that did not appear to be true. A federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death continues.
In the days after her son was killed. Cooper-Jones got a call from the mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager killed by a man who successfully claimed self-defense during his murder case after confronting Martin as he walked into his closed community. Martin was visiting relatives.
She also spoke to Breonna Taylor’s mother. Taylor was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, who crashed into her home without knocking while serving a court order during a drug operation. Taylor’s boyfriend shot at the group. The officers were not charged with her death.
Other mothers who have lost sons and daughters due to racist violence or in police shootings also reached out. Cooper-Jones calls them a sorority.
“We come together. We share our experience and we grow together,” she said.
Cooper-Jones has spent the last six weeks away from home since the jury selection began on October 18th. She moved away from Brunswick after her son was killed.
So she’s planning a quiet Thanksgiving away from home today. She’s not sure if they want to make Arbery’s favorite – pork chops and butter beans, but if not Thursday, they will soon have them because she said her son loved them for Sunday dinner.
“Today is actually going to be a day of rest. I have been sitting in that courtroom since October 18, “Cooper-Jones said. “I gather my closest family. We’re having a little dinner. We will be grateful. We will praise God. “
Other relatives are also grateful for the blessing of justice.
“We are grateful for Ahmaud’s life. Grateful for the love he has shown us for the years we had him. Grateful for the struggle we were in for justice. Grateful that we can now begin to heal, “Arbery’s aunt Thea Brooks told the AP.
Cooper-Jones is also grateful that her son’s killers are facing justice, and his death will make Georgia a safer place.
After Arbery’s death, Georgia became the 47th state to pass a hate crime law. The legislature also repealed the citizen’s arrest law, which defense attorneys tried to use to justify chasing him, and banned non-officers from detaining people outside of shoplifting.
“When they hear my son’s name. they will say, this young man, he lost his life, but he brought change, “Cooper-Jones said.
Jeffrey Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Alex Sanz of Atlanta and Russ Bynum of Savannah, Georgia contributed to this report.
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