As the closing arguments in the Ahmaud Arbery trial in Brunswick, Georgia, continue on Monday, Black Lives Matter and the New Black Panther Party protesters gathered outside of the Glynn County Courthouse.
While addressing the court, William “Roddie” Bryan’s defense attorney Kevin Gough said that protesters with Black Lives Matter and the Black Panthers were outside the courthouse with semi-automatic weapons. He said this was a reason for the court to call for a mistrial.
Along with banners showing Ahmaud Arbery’s face, the group also has black and white coffins with mannequins inside them that feature the names of Black men killed by police, such as George Floyd and Trayvon Martin.
Here’s what’s happening right now at the trial:
A protest was held with various Black Lives Matter groups, the New Black Panther Party and supporters of the Arbery family. Among the crowd were four people with The Original Black Panther Militia of Richmond, Virginia. The group, who came down to show support for Ahmaud Arbery’s family arrived at about 11 a.m. and planned to leave this evening.
“We’ve been watching every single day about what’s going,” Malik Rafa said. “It’s obvious they’re guilty. There was no reason for them to kill him at all.”
Rafa said he was upset by Kevin Gough’s comments in the courtroom, claiming protesters had assault rifles and had a coffin with the defendant’s name on it. The coffin contained a black mannequin covered in the names of Black people killed by police. The coffin was also adorned with their names and contained a video showing someone jogging.
“We’re just out here supporting the family. Yes, there was a coffin out here, but that didn’t have anything to do with the case. He’s been doing that every single day, trying to get a mistrial,” Rafa said, before referring to Gough’s comments about Black pastors.
“The jury doesn’t even know that we’re out here. So, what we have going on out here should not affect what’s going on in there. All we’re doing is fighting for justice.”
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland in 1966. It was founded to monitor police violence in black communities, a seemingly intractable issue that Black Lives Matter and other groups continue to organize around today.
The Panthers grew out of the generally pacifist civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was part of an African-American culture of self-discovery and self-determination that was flowering in many parts of the country at the time.
The NBPP was founded in 1989 and is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other watchdog organizations.
The group is in no way affiliated with the original Black Panthers from the 1960s. Members of the original Panthers have contested the misappropriation of their name both in public statements and in legal action.
Bobby Seale, a founding member of the original Panthers, has publicly disavowed the NBPP, founded by Malik Shabazz as “a black racist hate group.”
According to Southern Poverty Law Center, Shabazz is a “racist black nationalist with a long, well-documented history of violently anti-Semitic remarks and accusations about the inherent evil of white people.”
Shabazz believes that the NBPP is “not really different” than the original Panthers.
“There has been false information put out here that this is some kind of a hate group or anti-Semitic group, and really it’s not,” Shabazz told the Indianapolis Star. “It’s just a strong Black advocacy group very much similar to their predecessors.”
Some of the members of the New Black Panthers Party have been seen carrying weapons during the protest outside the Glynn County Courthouse.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, contains several proposals to punish vandalism and violence during protests such as those seen last summer in response to high-profile fatal shootings by police.
It seeks to “look at and redefine what peaceful assemblies were,” Robertson said, by making it a felony with fines and prison time to commit violent acts in gatherings of seven people or more, block a highway or road and deface public structures like monuments and cemeteries.
It would also hold city and county governments liable in civil court for interfering in a police agency’s protest enforcement, require permits for protests and rallies, block local officials from reducing police budgets by 30% or more in a year and provide protections for volunteer groups like “neighborhood watches” to assist police in protest enforcement.
The Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued the bill could give legal cover to vigilante and militia groups like the Proud Boys to intervene in protests with weapons, threats and violence, such as has been seen in recent protests including the fatal “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
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