Russ Bynum, Associated Press, August 9, 2022
A crowd of dozens chanted on a sweltering street corner Tuesday as Ahmaud Arbery’s hometown unveiled new street signs honoring the young Black man who was fatally shot after being chased by three white men in a nearby neighborhood — a crime local officials vowed to never forget.
Arbery’s parents joined the celebration the day after the men responsible for their son’s death received harsh prison sentences in U.S. District Court for committing federal hate crimes.
Officials in coastal Brunswick, where Arbery grew up, have ordered that intersections along all 2.7 miles (4.35 kilometers) of Albany Street that runs through the heart of the city’s Black community will have additional signs designating it as Honorary Ahmaud Arbery Street.
The first two signs were unveiled Tuesday at an intersection near the Brunswick African-American Cultural Center, where one wall is adorned with a giant mural of Arbery’s smiling face.
City commissioners voted in December to place Arbery’s name on a city street with a resolution proclaiming that he had become “a symbol of strength and unity within our community.”
“We did this because we want to always remember what happened,” Cornell Harvey, who served as Brunswick’s mayor when the street designation was adopted, said Tuesday. “You say, `Why would you want to remember such a tragedy?′ Because sometimes it takes that to make a change. I am so sorry for the family … but history has seized us.”
The crowd chanted “Long live Ahmaud Arbery!” as his mother and father tugged on opposite ends of a blue covering to reveal the new street sign bearing their son’s name underneath.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, said that although she still mourns his death, she also takes pride in what’s been accomplished in its wake. Georgia adopted a hate crimes law imposing additional penalties for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation or other factors. And state lawmakers gutted an 1863 state law authorizing private citizens to make arrests, which Arbery’s pursuers had sought to use to justify the deadly chase.
“I look at the change Ahmaud has brought since his passing,” Cooper-Jones told the dozens gathered for the street dedication.
“My only prayer is you guys will not forget his name,” she said, breaking down in tears. “Please promise me you guys will always say his name.”