ZACHARY: Vaccines to teachers makes sense

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

Jim Crow be gone. 

There are still vestiges of Jim Crow laws throughout the South, including Georgia's archaic citizen's arrest law that dates all the way back to the post-Civil War era. 

Gov. Brian Kemp's overhaul of the law is warranted but way past due. 

When Ahmaud Arbery was shot down in the streets of Brunswick last year after having been chased by three white men, two of those men tried to claim they were simply conducting a lawful citizen's arrest. 

There is no place for vigilante justice, or rather injustice, in Georgia or anywhere else. 

What happened in Brunswick must not happen again. 

While any of us might defend our homes and our families if we were invaded by an intruder, that is a far cry from hunting someone down and detaining them or — far worse — shooting them. 

In a rare bipartisan push, lawmakers and civil rights champions throughout Georgia have called for reform.

It is a shame that it takes death, tragedy and egregious acts of injustice to spur us to action and, in this case, legislation. 

Kemp said he wants to “close dangerous loopholes that could be used to justify future acts of vigilantism.”

It is unfathomable that Georgia still has these kinds of laws on the books. 

It was just last year, amidst national unrest, protests in streets across the nation and cries for social justice that our state passed a hate crime bill — after more than a decade without one.

The effort now to abolish the existing citizen's arrest law is just another step in a very long journey toward dismantling the institutional, systemic racism that has long plagued our state and communities of color. 

Kemp has called the old citizen's arrest law an "antiquated law that is ripe for abuse and enables sinister, evil motives.”

But what is even more egregious than the law itself, which is a clear mark of institutional racism, are the "sinister, evil motives" themselves that still exist and that no law can remove. 

It is heartening that this measure has bipartisan support and that Republicans and Democrats alike understand the 150-year-old statute must be abolished, but much more work has yet to be done. 

 

Jim Zachary is editor of The Valdosta Daily Times, CNHI's director of newsroom training and development and president-emeritus of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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