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Atlanta protest demands justice for Ahmaud Arbery

The death of Ahmaud Arbery has been characterized as a vigilante murder by activists, and gained national attention in the last few days.

ATLANTA — A protest around the Georgia Capitol building in Atlanta Wednesday demanded justice for Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old who was shot and killed on his jog in southeast Georgia by two men who say they thought he'd committed robberies in the neighborhood.

The death of Arbery has been characterized as a vigilante murder by activists, and gained national attention in the last few days, particularly after a video surfaced purporting to show the killing.

RELATED: Atlanta attorney calls for 'immediate arrest' in killing of jogger

11Alive has not independently verified the video, though it is part of law enforcement's official investigation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups have said the shooting appears to have been racially motivated. Arbery was black and the men who pursued him, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, are white.  

Protesters on Wednesday morning in Atlanta said they wanted accountability in the case, which has been sent to three different district attorneys because the two nearest to the case recused themselves.

Credit: First Coast News

RELATED: Case of man killed while jogging could go to grand jury after public outcry

In the first instance, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself because Gregory McMichael had once worked in her office. He is also a former Glynn County Police officer.

The Atlanta protesters said that fact, in particular, suggests why the McMichaels were never arrested, and why, only now - two months and two district attorneys later - is the case gaining traction.

"You have a confessed killing, you have a video, and that’s the only thing left to do right now - is to make the arrest, to follow through with the charges. They had enough to make the arrest the day of, when they heard the guy was killed," one protester told 11Alive photojournalist Stephen Boissy. "He was jogging. He had committed no crime, he was making no crime against them personally. So it's really unbelievable that they didn’t make an arrest at that time. 

"It becomes believable when you understand the friendly relationship of this person with the department - he's a former police officer, former investigator for the DA, so it makes sense that they don’t want to arrest their friend."

Protesters rounded the capital building, wearing masks and spacing out, with some of them jogging as Arbery had been.

RELATED: Mother seeks justice after son shot while jogging in Brunswick; pair involved in killing not arrested

The video at the center of developments was taken from a car behind Arbery, traveling along the same road he was jogging on. 

In it, he gets near a white truck parked in the street before yelling can be heard, as the camera drifts out of focus. When it comes back onto the scene, a gunshot can be heard, then a second, then the man who has been identified as Arbery can be seen struggling with a man for what appears to be a shotgun, as the camera again drifts down. 

When it pops back up, the other man is stepping back and the man believed to be Arbery stumbles forward and falls.

"On behalf of African American males and people of color who are profiled for no reason, going through a neighborhood ... who are looked at based on the suspicion of whatever implicit bias that somebody has, that are looked at as a threat, that’s why I’m here," one protester told 11Alive. "To represent those individuals as my brother’s keeper. It’s not right what happened at all. And more needs to be said, more needs to be done immediately. And I'm not going to stand by and just not say anything and just be silent.

"It's Amaud Arbery today, but it could be any of us tomorrow."

The district attorney now handling the case, Atlantic Judicial Circuit DA Tom Durden, based an hour away from Brunswick in Hinesville, recommended this week the case be presented to a grand jury.

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