Nov 19, 2021 - News

As closing arguments near, Glynn County preps for protests

Crowd in front of courthouse

Hundreds of clergy and laypeople at the Glynn County Courthouse Thursday. Photo: Emma Hurt/Axios

Defense attorneys have finished presenting evidence in the murder trial of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

  • Closing arguments are set for Monday, and as a verdict draws nearer, the possibility of protests does as well.

Driving the news: Glynn County has set up a Unified Command that has been preparing for six months. The group is a coordination between local agencies including the Glynn County and Brunswick City police and fire departments and the county sheriff.

“If there's not justice in this case, all bets are off. I don't know what will happen,” said Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker.

  • “The young Black men who see themselves as Ahmaud Arbery, they know that they could be next if justice is not served.”

“We recognize that there is some apprehension in our community about what the outcome of this trial might be,” said Jeremiah Bergquist, Glynn County police officer and incident commander for the Unified Command.

  • “We all have the same goal: maintain the peace while protecting the constitutional rights of those coming here as well as those who live and work here,” he said.

Bergquist said while they expect an increasing number of people in the county as the trial winds down, there's been “no intel” on any violent or destructive gatherings.

Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump, who’s in charge of the courthouse grounds, said they’ve had no problems with any groups so far and that he doesn’t “foresee” needing additional law enforcement help. 

  • He said his office has been reaching out proactively to visiting groups like Al Sharpton’s team in advance of their trips.

Details: Unified Command, along with the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service, opened a new community center in a local historic school building to give visiting protestors or groups a place to come to get information about things like permits.

What about the DOJ? The department's Community Relations Service arm is on the ground in Glynn, as it has been in many other communities facing conflict.

Yes, but: Elijah Bobby Henderson, a local social justice advocate, isn't convinced there will be large protests. He pointed to the city’s 35% poverty rate and the state's 3% unemployment rate.

  • “People here work. They work for meager wages. They have two and three jobs. Nobody's taking time off their go protest and tear stuff up,” he said. “They're not letting their kids do it either.”
  • He also highlighted the relative calm in the community back in May 2020 when the video of Arbery's death first surfaced.

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