Politicians in Georgia have voted overwhelmingly to limit allowing ordinary people to make citizen arrests after two armed white men shot and killed a Black man last year.
According to ABC News, more than a year after two white men pursued and shot an unarmed Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was seen jogging in a neighborhood before he was killed, Georgia lawmakers took a step toward repealing a citizen’s arrest law that predates the Civil War.
House Bill 479 received a 52-1 vote from the Senate on Monday. The bill would end the right of people in Georgia to make an arrest if a crime is committed in the person’s presence “or within their immediate knowledge.”
Advocates argued that the 1863 law has been steeped in racism and was previously used to round up slaves who were suspected of having escaped and it was used as justification for lynching Black people.
The Associated Press previously reported that House Bill 479 was approved unanimously by the chamber’s Judiciary Committee. Gov. Brian Kemp, who endorsed the bill, stated that it was time for the law to be changed.
“Some tried to justify the actions of the killers by claiming they had protection under an antiquated law that is ripe for abuse,” Kemp said last month.
Sen. Bill Cowsert, who is an Athens Republican, gave a reason for the change.
“You can’t use deadly force to stop somebody if you think they might have stolen a TV from somebody’s house down the street because sometimes this leads to consequences that aren’t intended when citizens try to play police officer, not being trained and not having the full picture,” Cowsert said.
The white father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, who chased Arbery down before killing him have been charged in his death along with his neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, who filmed the fatal encounter.