“Georgia must not remain one of only four states in the nation not to have a hate crimes law.” Bishop Jackson
AME Bishop Reginald T. Jackson leads push for hate crimes law in Georgia, justice for Ahmaud Arbery
ATLANTA—AME Church Presiding Bishop Reginald T. Jackson and two state legislators, Sen. Lester Jackson and State Rep. Al Williams, have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday, May 12, noon, at the Historic Brunswick Courthouse, 701 G Street, Brunswick, Georgia, to address the resurgence of hate crimes in Georgia.
Bishop Jackson said that he and the two lawmakers plan again to push for a new hate crimes law to be enacted in Georgia. Their announcement comes on the heels of the arrest of two white men who were charged on May 7 in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man. Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Greg McMichael, 64, gunned down Arbery while he was jogging through a white community in Brunswick, Georgia on Feb. 23. William Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels, aided the two men, following them in a second vehicle and videotaped the shooting as the duo confronted Arbery.
The murder case recently drew national attention, spurring an investigation by the GBI and the arrest of the McMichaels. The murder is widely believed to have been motivated by racial hatred, supporters say.
Bishop Jackson, Presiding Prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, issued the following statement today (May 9) statement:
“Three years ago when I was assigned as the Bishop of the more than 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, I was stunned to discover Georgia was one of only four states in the nation that does not have a “hate crimes law.” Speaking at the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus in August in Savannah, Georgia, I challenged the Black Caucus to sponsor hate crimes legislation and that day I made a commitment to rally faith leaders in Georgia to support them. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus kept its word and introduced hate crimes legislation. For three years, hate crimes legislation has been introduced in the Georgia Legislature and twice it has not passed. It has passed the House of Representatives only to be blocked twice in the Senate.
We have arrived at a third year seeking to get a hate crimes law passed in Georgia. While the Georgia Legislature offers frivolous and irresponsible excuses for why it has not passed hate crimes legislation, prevalence of hate crimes continues to occur in the state. A 16-year-old girl attempted to do at a Black church in Gainesville what Dylan Roof perpetrated at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, three white supremacists were arrested in Floyd County for conspiracy to commit murder and now, an unarmed young Black man, Ahmaud Arbery jogging in Brunswick, is cruelly murdered. None of these offenders can be charged with a hate crime in Georgia because the state does not have a hate crimes law. It is not that hate crimes do not happen in Georgia. It is that offenders cannot be charged with a hate crime in Georgia.
What does it take to get the Georgia Legislature to pass hate crimes legislation? The problem is not with Democrats. It is with a majority of Republicans. To their credit, Speaker Ralston and the Republican-controlled House has passed hate crimes legislation but the Senate twice has blocked it. Senator Jesse Stone, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said he does not feel that increasing penalties for crimes against “certain people” is the best approach. Please tell us what is a better approach? Others say a hate crimes law could limit free speech. Not true! The hate crimes law doesn’t seek to stop what they say but what works to prevent what they do. The startling truth is there is no good reason for Georgia not to have a hate crimes law.
The Georgia General Assembly reconvenes June 11 and Senate Bill 166 has been introduced. We refuse to let this session of the Georgia Legislature adjourn without passing Senate Bill 166. I and leaders of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus have met twice with Gov. Brian Kemp and twice with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan to discuss hate crimes legislation. Both have said Georgia will not tolerate acts of hate but we need more than words. We need a hate crimes law and demand that Gov. Brian Kemp provide leadership in making sure that a hate crimes law passes. He is the Governor of Georgia and head of the state’s Republican Party which controls both chambers of the legislature. If he publicly supports hate crimes legislation, members of his party will pass hate crimes legislation. He and Lt. Gov. Duncan should call on Senator Stone to post SB 166 to ensure that it comes before the Senate.
We understand that nothing changes without pressure. Faith leaders, civil rights organizations, and people of good intend to pressure the governor and Georgia legislators until a hate crimes law is passed. We seek to meet again with Governor Kemp and will personally contact every legislator to seek their support for hate crimes legislation. Georgia must not remain one of only four states in the nation not to have a hate crimes law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia cannot be wrong! Georgia should not keep depending on the federal government to do what it can’t do because of the absence of a hate crimes law.”