What would Ida B. Wells do?
5/14/2020, 6 p.m.
Crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, who fearlessly and tirelessly worked against racism and violence targeting African-Americans in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was posthumously honored last week with a Pulitzer Prize.
The special citation and $50,000 prize recognized her for “her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African-Americans during the era of lynching.”
But 89 years after her death in 1931, black Americans still are pushing to expose the barbaric lynchings that continue to take place in our nation.
The most recent wretched example to come to light is the Feb. 23 lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old jogger who was tracked down by a white man and his son in a pickup truck and shot to death in broad daylight on a residential street in Brunswick, Ga.
The white men claimed there had been burglaries in the neighborhood and they were making a citizen’s arrest of Mr. Arbery.
A cell phone video of the fatal shooting, which was taken by a third white man who claims he is innocent of any wrongdoing, was uploaded to social media and made public on May 5, sparking protests calling for Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, to be arrested and charged in Mr. Arbery’s murder.
Two separate prosecutors in the small Georgia community refused to bring charges against the McMichaels, claiming that the pair acted in self-defense when they used a shotgun to blast the unarmed Mr. Arbery three times, striking him twice in the chest and a third wound grazing his wrist.
After first placing their thumbs on the scales of justice by refusing to bring charges against the McMichaels and even casting Mr. Arbery in a negative light, the two prosecutors removed themselves from the case, noting a conflict of interest because of their ties to the McMichaels. Gregory McMichael is a former police officer and investigator with the Glynn County district attorney’s office.
A third prosecutor was brought into the case, but sat on it and did nothing for more than three weeks until the video was brought to light. As expected, the horrific video went viral, with outraged people demonstrating and calling from across the nation for the McMichaels’ arrest.
The prosecutor then contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. And within 36 hours of launching an investigation, the GBI on May 7 found probable cause and arrested and charged the McMichaels with felony murder and aggravated assault. The pair are being held without bond.
On May 8, Mr. Arbery, a former high school football standout and aspiring electrician, would have turned 26. His family is being repre- sented by prominent Florida attorney Benjamin L. Crump, who has become widely known for his work representing the families of victims of racist attacks and police shootings, including Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Terrence Crutcher.
A fourth prosecutor now has been brought in to handle the case — Cobb County District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes from the Atlanta area, a black woman who has experience both as a lawyer and as a judge.