Black Pastors Rally Outside Ahmaud Arbery Trial After Lawyer Tries to Ban Them

Hundreds of mostly Black pastors gathered Thursday to pray outside as the trial of three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery continued, the Associated Press reported.

The gathering was in response to comments made by a defense attorney requesting the removal of "any more Black pastors" after Reverend Jesse Jackson was sitting with Arbery's family during the trial.

Reverend Al Sharpton announced the organization of the rally in response to the comments, leading to Thursday's gathering including "Black pastors matter" signs and #JusticeForAhmaud buttons with Arbery's picture worn by many of the pastors in attendance.

The rally drew prominent figures like Martin Luther King III, son of the famous civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other pastors from across the country like Reverend Gregory Edwards from Pennsylvania.

The trial stems from the death of Arbery in February 2020 at the age of 25, with Gregory and Travis McMichael along with William Bryan Jr. accused of chasing Arbery, who they suspected of burglarizing a house under construction in their neighborhood. After chasing him in their trucks, allegedly trying to place him under citizen's arrest, and eventually shooting and killing him in alleged self defense.

Charged with felony counts of murder and aggravated assault along with false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony, all three have pleaded not guilty and face potential sentences of life in prison if convicted.

Cellphone footage of Arbery's death was posted online around two months after his death in the midst of a year marked with frequent protests and demonstrations over the deaths and shootings of Black men like Arbery, George Floyd and Jacob Blake.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Ahmaud Arbery, Trial, Black Pastors
Hundreds of pastors rally during the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan outside the Glynn County Courthouse on November 18 in Brunswick, Ga. The three are charged with the February 2020 killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

As testimony resumed inside the Glynn County courthouse, with its four huge columns, arched windows and shaded lawn, a group of mostly Black ministers gathered outside—a sea of dark suits and white collars.

A vendor sold T-shirts under one tent while a woman under another offered water and snacks and asked people to put donations in a pickle jar.

As the crowd grew outside, Reverend Jesse Jackson once again joined Arbery's family in the courtroom. Criticizing the failed attempt to keep Black pastors out of court, Sharpton told the rally that no one had questioned who is sitting with the defendants' families.

"No lawyer can knock us out. Because no matter where you are, God is there," he said. "We are going to keep coming until we get justice."

Martin Luther King III addressed the throng saying, "It only takes a few good women and men to bring change."

Prayer has been a key to helping Black people through centuries of slavery, violence and discrimination in America, said Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery. "That's all we lived on. That's all we had was prayer. What did our great-grandmothers depend on?"

Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Arbery family, predicted the defense would ask the judge for a mistrial because of the demonstration outside the courthouse.

"We need preachers to come pray for them in this insane situation, this inhumane situation," he said. Earlier, people in the crowd chanted the names of Black people who have been killed in high-profile cases in which racism or police brutality were alleged.

Church vans from a wide range of denominations were parked along streets around the courthouse. Reverend Edwards was broadcasting a Facebook Live video back to his friends in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he is pastor of the Resurrected Life Community Church, United Church of Christ.

As soon as the call for pastors to come to Brunswick went out, Edwards said, he rearranged his schedule to fly down.

"I would have walked," said Edwards, who also runs a multifaith, multiracial community organizing group. Edwards said he cried when he saw the video of Arbery's shooting death and thought of his three Black adult sons.

"Through technology we have been forced to bear witness to the public executions of our Black brothers and sisters," Edwards said.

A group of businesses in Brunswick and surrounding Glynn County joined together to provide a lunch of free barbecue sandwiches, shrimp and side dishes before the pastors rallied. Organizer Mike Mally said the group wanted to show that the community was united, not divided by race.

"We figured this was a good thing to do with all these visitors," Mally said.

Ahmaud Arbery, Murder Trial, Georgia
Defendant Travis McMichael testifies under cross-examination by prosecutor Linda Dunikoski at the Glynn County Courthouse November 18 in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and a neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan are charged with the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020. Sean Rayford/Getty Images