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Gov. Kemp signs overhaul of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law

Gov. Brian Kemp announced that President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster for all 159...
Gov. Brian Kemp announced that President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster for all 159 Georgia counties because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic Sunday.(WTOC)
Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 7:18 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill on Monday, May 10, that repeals and replaces the state’s citizen’s arrest law.

The governor had been outspoken about the fact that HB 479 comes because of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick last year.

The new law prevents private citizens from making arrests, overhauling a law that dates back to 1863 in the state of Georgia. It will still allow for self-defense and for business owners to hold people accused of a crime until police arrive.

The governor was joined in Atlanta by Arbery’s mother and sister as he signed the bill into law. He was also flanked by a large group of lawmakers on each side of the aisle. Governor Kemp praised the bipartisan support of the bill which passed unanimously in the Georgia House in March.

Both the governor and Arbery’s mother called this a positive step forward for the state.

“Today, we are replacing a Civil War-era law ripe for abuse with language that balances the sacred right of self-defense of a person and property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward,” Gov. Kemp said.

“I think the state of Georgia is moving in the right direction passing this particular bill. unfortunately, I had to lose my son to get significant change. But again, I’m still thankful,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones said.

Arbery would have turned 27 years old on Saturday.

“I’m just thanking God. It has been a long time coming. What happened to my kid, I don’t want to see that happening to anybody - Black or white. That is why I say the law should be equal,” Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery Sr. said.

State Representative Carl Gilliard (D-Garden City) issued the following statement in response to the signing of the bill.

“Today, I am overwhelmingly thankful that Georgia has moved forward in repealing its citizen’s arrest statute. As the original sponsor of House Bills 1203 and 45, legislation which mirrors HB 479, I am reminded of more than 158 years of an outdated, antiquated law that was responsible for a racist past of 1863. This law that played a role in the unfair detainment and lynching of African Americans has shined a bright light for a new Georgia,” stated Rep. Gilliard. “Repealing Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute is just the beginning. I am currently working with State Senator Michael Gianaris to repeal a similar law in New York and State Representative Wendell Gilliard to do the same in South Carolina. Now, Georgia moves forward to become the state that is too busy to hate.”

Rep. Gilliard has worked tirelessly for the bill’s passage. He says this opens up the door for other states to follow suit.

“I’m just elated that Georgia now has really become, for the moment, the symbol of the state that is too busy to hate,” Rep. Gilliard said.

Rep. Gilliard says one of the problems with the old law was that it gave people up to 48 hours to detain someone and hold them and that it was responsible for “a racist past.”

“48 hours was an excuse to be able to lynch African Americans. That’s what they were doing. They would hold you for that period and Lord knows what would happen,” Rep. Gilliard said.

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