Scenes of joy, relief take place outside courthouse following verdict

·3 min read

Nov. 26—As the verdict was read inside the Glynn County Courthouse, cheers of elation and expressions of relief exploded outside.

The three men charged in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty Wednesday in Glynn County Superior Court, and the response outside the courthouse was one of joy.

A crowd made up of demonstrators, staff of various media outlets and observers who included multiple faith leaders in Glynn County stood in front of the courthouse listening to a live stream of the reading of the verdict, which came at about 1:30 p.m. following a morning of jury deliberations.

Travis McMichael, 35, was found guilty of malice murder and felony murder. His father, Greg McMicheal, 65, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan were found guilty of felony murder, but the jury found both men not guilty of malice murder.

All three men were found guilty to varying degrees of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

The three men pursued 25-year-old Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shore neighborhood before Travis McMichael shot Arbery at close range in what he claimed was self-defense but the prosecution argued was malice murder.

When the reading of the verdicts by Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley of the Eastern Judicial Circuit ended, the chanting began.

"What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now," the crowd chanted, along with "Say his name: Ahmaud Arbery."

Sharon Schlaak needed only one word to describe her reaction to the verdict: Relief.

"Absolute relief," said Schlaak, a Brunswick resident. "I was unsure for a minute if the jury was going to be able to come to what I thought was the right decision, and they did. In a way, it's joyful."

Schlaak had stood outside the courthouse nearly every day since the beginning of the trial, bringing along her small dog Poppy. Poppy wore a green shirt and a button with a photo of Arbery Wednesday.

"Right is right, and the family shouldn't have had to go through this, through how long it took to come to justice," she said.

Schlaak said she's been proud to see how the Glynn County community has come together amid this tragedy, and her thoughts continue to be with Arbery's family as they endure his loss.

"We've got justice today, but their pain is not ended by this," she said.

Nathanial Hicks Jr., pastor of New Vision Church of God and Christ in Brunswick, also shared his relief that justice was served. He said he's been impressed by the turnout of both of Black and White individuals at events outside the courthouse throughout the trial.

"I think that speaks volumes as for who Brunswick is and who Brunswick is becoming," he said. "There are some issues in our community, but there's hope from what I've seen out here."

After the verdict, Arbery's family emerged from the courthouse alongside their attorneys and civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton. Several lifted their interlocked hands in an expression of victory.

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