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Atlanta Mayor Calls Ahmaud Arbery Shooting a ‘Lynching’ and Blames ‘White House Rhetoric’ for Emboldening Racists

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined the chorus of nationwide outrage about the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery Sunday, saying that “this was a lynching” which taps into a bigger issue of White House rhetoric she said emboldens “many who are prone to being racist.”

On Feb. 23, Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot and killed while jogging in a residential area in Brunswick, Ga. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who are both white, were arrested for the crime on Thursday and charged with murder and aggravated assault.

“It is heartbreaking. It’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African-American man and … my heart goes out to his family but I think again it’s a part of this bigger issue that we are having in this country,” Bottoms said on CNN’s State of The Union to host Jake Tapper. “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.”


Bottoms says she believes the duo were only charged because the shocking video of the incident emerged online and went viral. Authorities had possession of that video from the beginning but murder charges were only filed this past week, Tapper noted. According to Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s family, police have had the video footage since Feb. 23, the day Arbery was killed.

“I think had we not seen that video, I don’t believe that they would be charged,” Bottoms said on CNN.

Bottoms said that previously, the Justice Department would be a “backstop” if local leadership failed to ensure that “people are appropriately prosecuted, but we don’t have that leadership at the top right now.”

Bottoms says her three African-American sons are scared. “They are angry and they are afraid,” she said.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com