BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Ahmaud Arbery’s mother woke up Thursday with a new, very important blessing on Thanksgiving Day.
But there will still be an empty chair at the family’s celebrations. This is an indication that, while her daughter feels she was able to see justice in the convictions of three white men for helping her son run through coastal Georgia neighborhoods and shooting him dead, her son will not be reunited with her.
“This is the second Thanksgiving we’ve had without Ahmaud. But at the same time I’m thankful. This is the first Thanksgiving we are saying we got justice for Ahmaud,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.
All three of the white men that chased Arbery through Brunswick and then killed him were convicted Wednesday. After finding that Arbery had been captured on surveillance at a house nearby, they sought to interview him about the recent burglaries.
Arbery ran around the neighbourhood and in other locations near his house to get his mind clear. After running for five minutes from his attackers, Arbery realized that he had nothing to hand and was shot by one of the gunmen at close range. They will spend life behind bars if they are sentenced. A federal hate crime trial is set for February.
Cooper-Jones said after the verdicts were read Wednesday, she thought of her son’s supporters at the Glynn County courthouse every day who shouted “Justice for Ahmaud!”
“I finally got a chance to come out of those courtroom doors and say, we did it, we did it together,” Cooper-Jones said.
The mother of Ronald Greene died after his beating and choke hold by state troopers following a high-speed chase. Cooper Jones sat beside her as the judge read the sentence 23 times. Troopers said Greene suffered his injuries in a crash, but his doctors reported that didn’t appear to be true. A federal civil rights investigation into Greene’s death continues.
Within days of her son’s death, Cooper-Jones received a call from the mother. Cooper-Jones was contacted by Trayvon Martin’s mom. Martin, an unarmed Black teen, was killed when a man confronted him as he walked through the gated community. Martin successfully claimed self defense during his murder trial. Martin was in the area visiting family.
Breonna Taylor’s mother was also present. Louisville, Kentucky police shot Taylor to death while Taylor was being served a warrant for a drug-related operation. Taylor’s boyfriend fired on the group. In Taylor’s death, the officers weren’t charged.
Others mothers have reached out to other moms who had lost children or grandchildren due to racial violence, police shootings, and similar tragedies. Cooper-Jones refers to them as a sorority.
“We come together. We share our experience and we grow together,” she said.
Cooper-Jones has been away from her home for the last six weeks, as jury selection was underway Oct. 18. After her son’s death, she moved out of Brunswick.
She plans to spend quiet Thanksgiving at home. She isn’t sure if they will make Arbery’s favorite – pork chops and butter beans, but if not Thursday, the they will have them soon because she said her son loved them for Sunday dinner.
“Today is actually going to be a day of rest. I’ve been sitting in that courtroom since October 18,” Cooper-Jones said. “I’m gathering my immediate family. We’re going to have a small dinner. We’ve going to be thankful. We’re going to give our praises to God.”
The blessings of justice are received by other relatives as well.
“We’re thankful for Ahmaud’s life. Thankful for the love that he’s shown us, for the years we had him. For the struggle we put in to get justice. Thankful that now we can start healing,” Arbery’s aunt Thea Brooks told the AP.
Cooper-Jones is also thankful her son’s killers are facing justice and his death will make Georgia a safer place.
After Arbery’s death, Georgia became the 47th state to pass a hate crimes law. The Legislature also repealed the citizen’s arrest law that defense attorneys tried to use to justify chasing him, banning people who aren’t officers from detaining people outside of shoplifting.
“When they hear my son’s name. they will say, this young man, he lost his life but he did bring change,” Cooper-Jones said.