State Watch

Kemp signs bill repealing citizen’s arrest law after Ahmaud Arbery shooting

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A painting of Ahmaud Arbery is displayed during a vigil at New Springfield Baptist Church on February 23, 2021 in Waynesboro, Georgia.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Monday signed legislation that repeals the state’s citizen’s arrest law, a year after graphic footage showed the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

The legislation, House Bill 479, removes the ability of most bystanders to detain someone who they believe has committed a crime, and deadly force cannot be used to detain someone unless it’s in defense of property, oneself, or in an attempt to stop a forcible felony.

“Today, I was proud to sign H.B. 479 to overhaul Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, while also protecting every Georgian’s sacred right to defend their person and property,” Kemp said. “After the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery, we knew that action was needed to ensure an antiquated, Civil-War era statute could not be used to justify rogue vigilantism in the Peach State.”

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was fatally shot while jogging through Brunswick on Feb. 25, 2020. Greg McMichael and his son Travis McMichael began trailing Arbery because they suspected him of being a burglar. The McMichaels, along with William “Roddie” Bryan, chased Arbery through the neighborhood.

He was eventually shot twice in the chest with a shotgun. Graphic footage of Arbery’s killing wasn’t released until May 2020, after which the McMichaels and Bryan were soon arrested.

All three men are facing state charges of felony and malice murder, as well as multiple federal hate crime counts. They remain in jail without bail.

H.B. 479 is the second piece of legislation that Georgia has passed in response to Arbery’s death. In June, lawmakers passed legislation that outlined criminal sentencing for hate crimes, as Georgia was one of the few states in the country that didn’t have a law criminalizing hate crimes.

Georgia is the first state in the country to roll back its citizen’s arrest law. The state had originally implemented it in 1863 to allow white Georgians to capture escaped slaves. It was later used to justify the lynching of Black Georgians.

“I think the signing of this bill will make people think before they take action into their own hands,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said after Kemp signed the bill, according to The Associated Press. 

“Unfortunately we had to lose my son in this manner. Had this bill been in place, I think it will protect young men as they are jogging down the street,” she said.

Tags Brian Kemp Citizen's arrest Georgia Hate crimes

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