A “sea of preachers” gathered Thursday at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, where three white men are on trial for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.
The gathering comes a week after defense attorney Kevin Gough asked a judge to limit the number of black pastors who can support Arbery’s family inside the courtroom.
Quine Cousins, the lead pastor at Lighthouse Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Ellenwood, Georgia, recorded a video Thursday morning showing scores of clergy and supporters gathered at the courthouse. He described the scene as a “picnic.”
“This is a picnic right here,” he said before making it clear that it was Gough’s comments about black pastors that sparked the gathering.
“As I was watching the proceeding inside the courtroom this morning, attorney Kevin Gough, he called out Louis Farrakhan. This guy just be calling out preachers, and because he called out preachers the other day, [he’s the reason why we’re here]. And so, if you’re on the way, show up. ... I wish you were here to see the sea of preachers,” he said.
More than 100 black clergy and activists including, Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., are expected to gather at the courthouse to create a human prayer wall for justice.
African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Reginald Jackson and the Rev. Jamal Bryant of Atlanta's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are also among the high-profile clergy expected to join civil rights leader Al Sharpton at the event.
Arbery was fatally shot while jogging in Glynn County on Feb. 23, 2020. Three white men — Gough’s client, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 65-year-old Gregory McMichael and his son 35-year-old Travis McMichael — are standing trial at the courthouse for Arbery’s death.
Gough argued in court last Thursday that Sharpton’s presence and the presence of other high-profile black ministers in the courtroom could “consciously or unconsciously … pressure or influence the jury” against his client.
“If we’re going to start a precedent that started yesterday, we’re going to bring high profile members of the African American community in the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury. I believe that’s intimidating, and it’s an attempt to pressure — could be consciously or unconsciously — an attempt to pressure or influence the jury,” Gough argued.
“To my knowledge, Rev. Sharpton has no church in Glynn County. He never has. … We don’t want any more black pastors coming in here or other — Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week — sitting with the victim’s family trying to influence a jury in this case,” he said.
Many leading black preachers took offense to the comments, including General Missionary Baptist Convention President Anthony Corbett.
“I felt very insulted. I felt belittled as pastor. I felt belittled as a man and just as a human being,” Corbett told WJBF. “I think it’s really vital that the church speak up and the pastors speak up. There’s so much injustice that we don’t even know about going on in our world. I think the church as a whole should take a stand against these injustices.”
John Perry, the immediate past president of Brunswick’s chapter of the NAACP and senior pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Brunswick, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that hundreds of pastors were expected to show up at the courthouse on Thursday.
“There are hundreds of pastors that are supposed to come from all over the country, and we’re excited about their presence,” he said. “As a community, we believe in faith and we believe in the role of faith in justice.”