'I exhaled': Relief from many in Bay Area following guilty verdicts in murder of Ahmaud Arbery 

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The guilty verdict in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery -- who was shot and killed by three white men while on a run through a Georgia neighborhood -- has led many in the Bay Area to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burris said that he was "elated" when the verdict came in. Cat Brooks, the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, said, "I exhaled, for a minute."

Both Brooks and Burris watched the trial closely, anxiously hoping this would be the outcome, while knowing how so often the Black community has felt failed by the U.S. justice system.

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"There's no significant history to say jurors will see this objectively," Burris told ABC7 News. "And so that's why at this point in time it's so significant, even though the evidence is pretty clear."

Despite the relief and elation, those who welcome this outcome are not celebrating.

President Joe Biden tweeted, "Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community. But the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished."



Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that Arbery "should be alive" and then criticized the defense counsel, saying they "dehumanized a young Black man with racist tropes."

During the trial, a defense lawyer brought up Arbery's dirty toenails.

"Ahamud Arbery is not an exception to the rule of what happens to Black people in this country," Brooks said.

"The association of Black people with criminality. Not just in Georgia. Right here in the Bay Area, too, and cities and towns across the nation," she added. "You see this with stuff on Nextdoor, and other sites that have 'suspicious people' in their neighborhoods."

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Brooks also pointed out that the trial only happened after community activism brought attention to the murder and video emerged showing the crime. It took two months for the three men to be arrested.

Brooks and Burris say although the fight for racial equity is far from over, the fact this jury came to this conclusion shows real progress.

"It may be just a mark along the way, but I think progress, little marks along the way, help," Burris said, "And so pretty soon it becomes part of the lexicon from the community, so to me this is very important."

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