The Slatest

Atlanta Mayor Calls Arbery Killing a “Lynching,” Says Trump Rhetoric Emboldens Racists

Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a podium
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the St. Regis in Atlanta on June 17. Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms characterized the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a lynching while she also blasted President Donald Trump for his rhetoric that gives racists a green light to act on their worst impulses. “It is heartbreaking. It’s 2020, and this was a lynching of an African American man,” Bottoms said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Bottoms, who is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Joe Biden, went on to say that the killing was “part of this bigger issue” in the country that can be traced back to Washington. “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. Bottoms agrees with those who say that Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were only arrested and charged with murder because the video of the killing was made public. “I think had we not seen that video, I don’t believe that they would be charged,” Bottoms said. The pair were arrested last week, more than two months after Arbery was killed in Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 23.

Arbery’s mother agrees with that assessment and said that even though her son was “hunted down and killed like an animal,” if it weren’t for the video being made public, the investigation into her son’s death would have been very different. “I honestly think that if we didn’t get national attention to it, my son’s death would have actually been a cover-up,” Wanda Cooper Jones said in an interview that aired Friday.

Bottoms said that when local law enforcement fails, the Justice Department is supposed to be a “backstop” to make sure “people are appropriately prosecuted.” But that isn’t happening right now because “we don’t have that leadership at the top.” Bottoms went on to say her immediate family is not feeling safe these days. “I have four kids, three of whom are African American boys,” she said. “They are afraid, they are angry.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Sunday that it was investigating a threat made on Facebook against “future protests related to Ahmaud Arbery.” That came a day after it was revealed that investigators are reviewing additional video from the neighborhood where the shooting took place.

The attorney of the man who recorded the video of Arbery’s killing said Saturday that his client is receiving threats that coincide with authorities announcing that he is also under investigation. William “Roddie” Bryan shared the 36-second video with police that was later described as a key piece of evidence. “Mr. Bryan videotaped what was going on and because he did that, there is a prosecution,” Kevin Gough said. “If he had not videotaped that incident, the only person who really could speak to what happened is dead and we’ll never have that opportunity. That video is the prosecution.” Gough said Bryan was not aware he was being investigated until officials announced it Friday.