‘It needs to happen:’ local state lawmakers pushing for hate crime bill

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — Georgia lawmakers say the state is past due for hate crime laws and they want a bill to pass following the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

“We’re coming. There’s no way we’re going to stop what has happened,” Macon-Bibb representative James Beverly said. “Certainly, the loss of life has heightened the flaws in the system, but we can surely address them as a legislator.”

Currently, Georgia is one of four states that does not have hate crime laws. A bill to create those laws was presented in the 2019 Georgia General Assembly Session, but the senate didn’t get it out of committee.

Georgia Senator David Lucas says what happened to Ahmaud Arbery —  the black man gunned down by two white men in Brunswick — caused the hate crime bill to gain momentum again.

“How do you kill somebody for jogging in a community?” Lucas asked. “For wondering how a house looks on the inside and going in and looking at it? Then all of a sudden he’s killed under the premises [that] he was burglarizing.”

House Bill 426 would give an enhancement to a sentence if a crime was motivated by hate due to gender, race or religion.

Along with the hate crime bill, Beverly says lawmakers are pushing to do away with citizen’s arrests.

“That does not need to be in the state of Georgia anymore,” Beverly said. “We have a police department, we pay our taxes, and we have people who are trained to give us comfort in a time of need – the police department, the sheriff’s department. We don’t need folks who feel like they can arrest somebody because they don’t look like you or they don’t act how you would act in a particular situation, especially if you don’t have any evidence.”

Beverly adds that lawmakers want to name the bill the “Ahmaud Arbery Crime Bill.”

“The family is okay with that, so we’ll see, but we need to take this hate crime bill up now. It’s been long enough,” Beverly said.

The session resumes either June 11 or June 15. House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan have yet to decide after lawmakers stopped meeting in March — due to the pandemic.

Beverly says the hate crime bill is priority along with the budget.

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Tanya comes all the way from Chicago, Illinois. She’s a city girl that’s excited to be a part of Middle Georgia’s community and tell your stories! She received a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia College Chicago. She also spent a few semesters studying at San Diego State University. While in college, she interviewed Joan Rivers before she passed away, was on the red carpet for the movie premiere of “Chiraq” and also interned with ABC7’s investigative reporters and Bill Kurtis. Tanya spent nearly 2 years reporting in Billings, Montana where she covered a lot of politics and agriculture. In her spare time, Tanya is a sports fanatic, so even though the Chicago Bears and Bulls didn’t know how to win this season, she still roots for them. You can guarantee you’ll run into her at the gym every day. If you do, stop by and say hi! Share your stories with her and don’t be surprised if she’s hiding chocolate chip cookies in her gym bag.