The killing of Ahmaud Arbery has sparked nationwide controversy after video this week showed the black Georgia man being gunned down by two white men, who had remained free for months after the incident before being arrested this week.
Now, the controversy is growing even deeper online as a group of right-wing pundits are being accused of launching a “smear campaign” against the slain man. As the Daily Dot reported, a number of online activists have cast doubt on claims that Arbery was an innocent jogger and brought up stories of his past troubles with the law. The report characterized this as a “smear campaign” against Arbery, noting that many have compared it to reports of Trayvon Martin after his death that painted him as a violent criminal.
Though Arbery was killed on February 23, the white men who confronted and shot him were not arrested until this week, after the release of the video. Police said the men did not deny shooting Arbery, but said it was in self-defense as the man attacked them while they were trying to conduct a citizens arrest after believing he was involved in burglaries in the area. The video cast doubt on that claim, making it unclear if Arbery was the aggressor.
Subsequent reports have cast more doubt on their claim that he was involved in burglaries, with police noting that there had not been any burglaries reported in that neighborhood for weeks.
The Daily Dot report noted that “right-wing troll” Andy Ngo posted a thread on Twitter highlighting an arrest the 25-year-old Arbery had in high school for bringing a weapon to his campus. He also referenced a now-disputed claim that Arbery was the aggressor.
“The former prosecutor says video also allegedly shows him attacking Travis McMichael & trying to grab his gun,” Ngo wrote.
That prosecutor is now under fire for not filing charges against Arbery. Many disputed Ngo’s characterization, noting that even if Arbery had committed a crime in the past, it was not justification for the shooting.
This guy spends the evening justifying a murder, but he is the real victim here. pic.twitter.com/RtHaqjJEzF— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) May 8, 2020
Other conservative figures shared similar sentiments, casting doubt on the family’s claim that Arbery was just jogging through the neighborhood. Family had said that Arbery, a fitness buff and former football star, was known to jog through the neighborhood every day.
“The just jogging story seems highly suspect,” tweeted online activist Cassandra Fairbanks. “Would you let someone you believes to have robbed your neighbors just take off? I hope mine wouldnt.”