Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery a “lynching” and took aim at President Donald Trump for what she saw as rhetoric that inflamed racial tensions.
Bottoms opened up about the February killing of the 25-year-old Georgia man, days after the release of the video showing his final moments led to national outrage. In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Bottoms said that the shooting death of the black man at the hands of a white father and son was a lynching.
“It is heartbreaking. It’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African-American man,” the Atlanta mayor said.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested this week by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, days after the release of the video showing Arbery’s fatal shooting. The man had claimed that Arbery was killed in self-defense while they were attempting to conduct a citizen’s arrest, believing that Arbery had been involved in a string of burglaries in the neighborhood.
Many believed that the video cast doubt on the claim of self-defense, showing the men waiting for Arbery on the road with guns. There was a struggle as Arbery ran past them, and the men opened fire, killing Arbery. Though a local district attorney reportedly concurred with the claim that they acted in self-defense, the GBI this week arrested both on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
Critics said that the initial decision not to arrest the men — who reportedly acknowledged shooting Arbery — was racially motivated. Bottoms added that she believed both men would not have been charged had the video not been released this week. Family members and local activists had been pushing police to make an arrest in the case, expressing frustration at the lack of action on the part of local authorities.
In her interview on Sunday, Bottoms also said that Trump holds some blame for having raised racial tensions in the United States and emboldened racists to act out in ways they may have not before.
“With the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House, in so many ways, I think many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way that we otherwise would not see in 2020,” she said.
Trump himself has spoken out about Arbery’s killing, saying he found the video of the 25-year-old’s killing to be “very, very disturbing.”