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100 Clergy Will Gather to Pray Over Ahmaud Arbery Killing Trial After Controversial ‘Black Pastors’ Comment

On Friday, Gough offered “my apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended” by his objection to Sharpton’s presence. If those comments were “overly broad,” he said, he would compile “a more specific motion…putting those concerns in the proper context.”

Meanwhile, Gough’s comments went viral on social media, with some people calling them a “dog whistle.”

Rev. Al Sharpton Calls Comments ‘Insulting’

In a statement Thursday, Sharpton responded to Gough’s words, saying, “The arrogant insensitivity…in asking a judge to bar me or any minister of the family’s choice underscores the disregard for the value of the human life lost and the grieving of a family in need [of] spiritual and community support.” He describes Gough’s words as “pouring salt into their wounds.”

Sharpton adds, “I respect the defense attorney doing his job, but this is beyond defending your client; it is insulting the family of the victim.” The Arbery family invited Sharpton to attend, he says, noting that he conducted a prayer vigil with them outside the courthouse Wednesday. About the proceedings, Sharpton says, “Not only are those three [defendants] on trial; Georgia law is on trial.”

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, calls Gough’s comments “disturbing” and “very, very rude.” She adds that she was “very surprised to know that he frowned upon anybody, any pastor, that would come in to sit with the family, to keep us encouraged.”

Calling Arbery “my baby,” Cooper Jones says, “I didn’t understand why God had placed this assignment on me. But that being said…God will never fail you.” Her goal, she says, is to see the defendants “brought to justice.”

Case and Trial Are Racially Charged

The graphic footage of Arbery’s death sparked outrage and cries of racism, and now the trial is doing the same. Of the 12 jurors selected to hear the case, only one is Black. Sharpton, who calls the shooting a “lynching in the 21st century,” adds that the jury makeup is “an insult to the intelligence of the American people.”

Sharpton says, “Despite the fact this country was able to grow to the point of electing and reelecting a Black president, grow to the point of electing now a Black woman vice president, you still can’t jog through Brunswick, Ga., without being shot down.” Glynn County is about two-thirds white.

S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery family, implies that Gough’s objection itself involves racism. “This attorney is talking about the influence of just one Black juror after they used 11 of their 12 strikes to go after the remaining 11 Black jurors in this case,” he says. “So we know that these attorneys are attempting to change the outcome by relying on old racial discrimination tactics that have denied a lot of families in the South.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance writer and editor in Denver, has spent her entire 30-year journalism career in Christian publishing. She loves the Word and words, is a binge reader and grammar nut, and is fanatic (as her family can attest) about Jeopardy! and pro football.