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Pastors rally at Ahmaud Arbery trial after attorney’s ‘outrageous’ comments

pastors-rally-at-ahmaud-arbery-trial-after-attorney’s-‘outrageous’-comments
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — Hundreds of pastors gathered and prayed Thursday outside the Georgia courthouse where the trial over Ahmaud Arbery’s killing is underway, a week after a defense attorney said there shouldn’t be “any more Black pastors” in the courtroom.

Rev. Al Sharpton, whose presence in the courtroom prompted the attorney’s denied request to prevent pastors from sitting with Arbery’s family during the trial, called on clergy “across ecumenical lines” to join him outside the Glynn County Courthouse for a “power of prayer vigil” in solidarity with the family.

“No lawyer can knock us out. Because wherever you are, God is always there,” Sharpton told the crowd. “I’m here this week. … And we’re going to keep coming until we get justice.”

Arbery’s parents thanked the pastors for their support.

“My heart is full of just joy in the midst of this broken heart,” his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the crowd.

Sharpton said he was joined in Brunswick by hundreds of Black pastors from “all over the world,” shouting out Seattle, Philadelphia and New York City. Also in attendance were human rights advocate Martin Luther King III, the son of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Arbery family’s attorneys.

Protesters also gathered alongside the clergy, holding signs that said “Black pastors matter” and “Justice for Ahmaud.”

The rally was announced last Friday, a day after defense attorney Kevin Gough told Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley that he took major offense over the fact that Sharpton had been in the courtroom with Arbery’s family that week. Gough called Sharpton’s presence “improper,” “intimidating to the jury” and “an attempt to influence.”

“We have all kinds of pastors in this town, over 100. And the idea that we’re going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim’s family, one after another, obviously there’s only so many pastors they can have,” Gough said. “If their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now, that’s fine. But then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.”

Gough later apologized, saying in court that his statements had been “overly broad.”

“My apologies to anyone who might’ve been inadvertently offended,” he said.

In an interview with ABC News’ Linsey Davis this week, Sharpton said the comments were “one of the more outrageous things I’ve ever heard.”

“He didn’t just say, ‘We don’t want ministers,’ or, ‘We don’t want civil rights leaders’ — ‘We don’t want Black pastors,'” he said. “And I think that that is one of the most bigoted and biased things I’ve heard.”

Gough is representing William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, chasing down Arbery while the 25-year-old Black man was out for a jog last year. Arbery was fatally shot during the confrontation.

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

The high-profile trial entered its 10th day Thursday, with Travis McMichael taking to the stand for the second time to testify as the defense’s first witness. The defense rested its case in the afternoon, and court is adjourned until Monday morning.

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