Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has said that the killing of Ahmaud Arbery was a “lynching” and that the White House’s rhetoric is emboldening racists in the US.
Last week, two white American men were arrested and charged with murder for the fatal shooting of Mr Arbery, while he was jogging in Georgia.
Mr Arbery, who was unarmed, was on a jog, when Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, pursued the 25-year-old in the city of Brunswick, Georgia. They confronted Mr Arbery and fatally shot him.
The shooting took place in February, but it took until last week for the two men to be charged, after the incident became national news and celebrities including Kim Kardashian West and LeBron James called for action.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Ms Bottoms said that the two men were only arrested because a video was released of the killing.
Host Jake Tapper asked the mayor if she thought the men were only charged because the story became public, and she replied: “I think that’s absolutely the reason they were charged. I think had we not seen that video, I don’t believe that they would be charged.”
The mayor said that the killing was “part of a bigger issue that we’re having in this country,” and added that “it’s heartbreaking. It’s 2020 and this was a lynching of an African-American man.”
The mayor also claimed that rhetoric from the White House is giving some people in the US “permission” to engage in racist behaviour and actions.
“With the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House, in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way that we otherwise would not see in 2020,” she added.
Gregory and Travis McMichael told police that they believed that Mr Arbery had been responsible for a string of burglaries in the area.
Earlier today, video footage was released, that showed him walking into a construction site moments before his death, but leaving empty handed.
The family’s attorneys released a statement, and said that the footage “confirms that Mr Arbery’s murder was not justified and the actions of the men who ambushed him were unjustified.”
The US Justice Department announced on Monday that it is “assessing all of the evidence” to determine whether to apply federal hate crime charges against them.
In a statement, agency spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the department “will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law.”