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SPLC Action Fund welcomes repeal of citizen arrest law

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Legislature has passed House Bill 479, repealing the state’s citizen arrest law. This bill is responsive to the demands of the families affected by vigilante violence, organizers and advocates, and especially the efforts of the JUST Georgia Coalition, which formed after the miscarriage of justice in Ahmaud  Arbery’s case. Arbery, a 25-year-old black jogger, went for a run in his neighborhood and was killed by two violent vigilantes. 

The SPLC Action Fund supports the full repeal of citizen’s arrest and stands with Ahmaud’s family and our coalition partners. The repeal has bipartisan support with Governor Brian Kemp calling for the repeal of citizens arrest, referring to Arbery’s murder as “a vigilante-style of violence” allowed by “an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse and enables sinister, evil motives.”

The following is a statement from Isabel Otero, policy associate for the SPLC Action Fund. 

“This law has been used to justify the lynching of hundreds, if not thousands of Black people in the state over decades. Citizen’s arrest was always about perpetuating white supremacy and it’s repeal is essential to creating a truly equal society in Georgia. This law should never have been created, and while we are 150 years behind, at least we’re doing the right thing now and getting rid of it.

“Unfortunately, today’s victory is overshadowed by the passing of other legislation that will prevent communities from affecting meaningful change within the criminal legal system or build trust between communities of color and law enforcement. Senate Bill 115 creates a new course for drivers on the best practices for interacting with law enforcement during a traffic stop. The bill fails to provide drivers with information about their rights under GA law and the U.S. Constitution and suggests that people like Rayshard Brooks are responsible for their own death --not the officer who chased and murdered him. HB286 prevents local governments from decreasing their budget for law enforcement. This bill does not improve public safety, it harms GA’s principle of home rule and sacrifices public safety to make a political statement about the Black Lives Matter movement. Once again, this body continues to make policy about political grievances rather than conduct the business of the people of Georgia.”

Otero and Delvin Davis, a regional policy analyst at SPLC Action Fund, wrote a column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution earlier this year calling for the repeal of the citizen arrest law, calling it a Jim Crow relic.