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Rap videos sparked by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery become topic of juror questioning

Videos feature Ahmaud Arbery protests, including one shot on the steps of the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — *The above video was originally published Thursday.

Community reaction to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020 has included included somber vigils, angry demonstrations and political activism. But it has also inspired art in the form of rap tributes and music videos.

At least one of those videos became an issue during the questioning of potential jurors. An attorney for Roddie Bryan, who along Travis and Greg McMichael is accused of murdering Arbery -- grilled one jury candidate about his Facebook affiliation with a man who shot a video on the steps of the Glynn County Courthouse attacking the then-leadership of the Glynn County DA’s office and local law enforcement.

Lyrics like “Murder n-----s in the street of Brunswick, cover crime up like our Jackie Johnson,” reference former District Attorney Jackie Johnson. She was voted out of office and subsequently indicted for allegedly showing “affection and favor” to Greg McMichaels, a former DA investigator, in failing to arrest the three men after the fatal shooting.

The juror -- #140, a black man in his 30s -- said he didn’t personally know the rap video artist, Travis Riddle -- a vocal community activist currently running for mayor. “I just accept [Facebook] friends,” the juror explained. Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, later tried to strike the juror for cause, but the judge denied his request and the juror remains one of the 23 qualified so far.

(Gough himself has acknowledged being Facebook friends with several potential jurors questioned so far, without personally knowing them.)

Another video, titled “Why I Run,” is more directly focused on Arbery’s death, and even features a reenactment of sorts, with armed white men in a pickup truck chasing Black men down a street (though the actors are also depicted as Klan members in hoods, burning a cross). The lyrics describe the incident in the first person, from Arbery’s perspective, and end with a mantra that can be seen on signs and bumper stickers around Brunswick.

“Why I Run.” 

Running down the street, minding business, I’m just trying to jog

Racist white folks see me and they say I’m trying to rob

I don’t want no problems, I'm just trying to get my workout in

Let ‘em tell me […] I’m trying to break in

Just from the color of my skin -- racially profiled

Now they pointing, cussing at me, and they talking all loud

I don’t want no problems, I'm just trying to make it back home

Plus I know I’m innocent -- I ain’t did nothing wrong

Stopped to take a break, got tired so I took a seat

Abandoned house I’m sitting at, out the windows neighbors peek

Car coming up the street, one of the ones cussing at me

Neighbors call the police, wanting them to come get at me

Jumped up, I don’t want no trouble, I’m just trying to leave

Running down the street, the same car now following me

Get down the road, white boys got it blocked off

Boy got a Glock, the other one got a sawed off

Comes out the door […] come running at me

Mad like I did something with gun pointed at me

Now he goes to tussling me, I just trying to defend myself

First gunshot -- when it hit me almost took my breath

Then they shot again, now my body getting real weak

Now they standing over me where I’m laying in the street

Why I had to die? Where the justice? Tell me where the people?

God got me now -- soon justice will prevail for me.

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

I run with Ahmaud, I run with Ahmaud

Credit: First Coast News
Travis McMichael (left), Gregory McMichael and William "Roddy" Bryan in court on day four of jury selection in the death of Ahmaud Arbery trial.