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Ahmaud Arbery's mother says protests over racial injustice 'give me strength'

Wanda Cooper-Jones said protests over racial injustice that have invoked the death of her son have let her know that she's not alone.
/ Source: TODAY

Ahmaud Arbery's mother has been "very hopeful" in seeing the worldwide protests against racial injustice that have often included demonstrators chanting her son's name in his memory.

"Seeing the demonstrations, it offers strength," Wanda Cooper-Jones said Monday on the 3rd hour of TODAY. "It lets me know that I'm not standing alone. It shows me that someone cares.

"In the beginning, in the first stages of this, I was the only one that spoke of Ahmaud, and now I got people that are chanting his name."

Arbery, 25, was shot and killed on Feb. 23 while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, after being followed by two white men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, in their pickup truck. The two men have been charged with murder along with William Bryan, who recorded Arbery's death on video.

In a preliminary court hearing last week, a state investigator testified that Travis McMichael was heard saying a racist slur as he stood over Arbery's body after fatally shooting him.

"It was shocking to know that someone could actually take a life and still not have any remorse in the last minutes of their life," Cooper-Jones said.

The testimony about the racial slur could help bolster the prosecution's case against the men, according to Cooper-Jones' lawyer, Lee Merritt.

"Each man in this case is charged with felony murder, and so if they have some sort of justification defense, it's undermined by the use of a racial slur while standing over the dead body," Merritt said on TODAY.

Arbery's death preceded the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died on May 25 after a white police officer in Minneapolis put his knee on Floyd's neck as he begged for air. Floyd's death sparked the ongoing protests in cities across the world against police brutality and racism.

Cooper-Jones will be traveling to Houston for Floyd's funeral services, which include a public service on Monday and a private, invite-only service on Tuesday.

"The words should be that I'm sorry that this has happened,'' she said. "I was hoping that when this happened to Ahmaud back in February that this would bring an end to some of these type of events, but unfortunately it happened again so quickly ... and this must stop."

Cooper-Jones also reached out on June 5 to the mother of Breonna Taylor on what would've been Taylor's 27th birthday. Taylor was shot and killed in March by Louisville police officers executing a no-knock warrant in the middle of the night, which is now being investigated by the FBI.

"It was very important to reach out because I know her pain, because I share the same pain," Cooper-Jones said. "We lost our child. That type of pain, you don't know that pain until you experience it firsthand. Ahmaud had a birthday back in May, and it was very difficult.

"I had to reach out because I knew Friday was going to be very difficult for Miss Taylor," she said.

Cooper-Jones and Merritt are hopeful that cases like the ones involving Arbery, Taylor and Floyd can result in systemic change.

"The tragedy of Ahmaud's case is not only what happened to him at the hands of evil men, but the system that seemed to justify this behavior," Merritt said. "So it's causing people all over the country to say maybe we really need to look back at the laws, look at the systems that we have in place to ensure nothing like this happens again."