The family of Ahmaud Arbery says that Kayne West’s “White Lives Matter” T-shirt and subsequent response to criticism condones the philosophy behind Arbery’s murder and runs counter to the rapper’s private views on the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to court documents obtained by Atlanta Black Star, West’s act comes at a time when Wanda Cooper-James, Arbery’s mother, is engaged in a civil dispute with current and former local prosecutors and officers involved in her son’s case.
Both the rapper-businessman and the models in Monday’s Paris fashion show for his YZY brand wore the shirts. He also participated in a photo op with the equally divisive conservative commentator Candace Owens, wearing T-shirts with identical messages. It was met with a barrage of condemnation.
The failed presidential contender, though, continued to press the issue.
Earlier on Monday, West stated in his Instagram story that “Black Lives Matter was a hoax now it’s over you’re welcome,” before he removed the post.
In 2020, while running near his home in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside the Georgia coastal city of Brunswick, two white males chased and killed Arbery.
The men said they were trying a citizen’s arrest of Arbery because they believed he was responsible for a series of burglaries in the area. The summer of 2020 saw a surge in the Black Lives Matter movement after the police shootings of unarmed teenagers including Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor.
In the summer of 2016, West participated in demonstrations in his hometown of Chicago. In June of 2020, he made a donation of $2 million to help the families of Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd pay for legal bills. A college fund was established in his name for Floyd’s daughter.
Mother of Arbery says her son’s stunt during Paris Fashion Week was a “extreme disappointment” that impedes progress.
According to a statement released by Cooper-lawyer, James’s Lee Merritt, “as a result of his exhibition, ‘White Lives Matter’ started trending in the U.S., which would directly support and legitimize extremist action,” such as the kind of behavior that led to the death of her son. “Wanda and other families like hers will not stop fighting that.”
His “denunciation of the movement as some sort of fraud flies squarely in the face,” the statement continued, “of his previous ridicule of the Black Lives Matter movement.” It’s frustrating for her and the families that he’s been there for them privately but has publicly pushed us back.
Cooper-James filed suit in February 2021 against Glynn County, Georgia, and two police officers for their roles in her son’s death, as well as against former County District Attorney Jackie Johnson and current Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill. On the other hand, the county, district attorneys, and police officers have all filed motions asking the court to throw out the lawsuits against them.
Arbery’s mom sued the defendants for 11 different reasons, claiming that Officer Robert Rash was in on her son’s murder plot with Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan. According to her, Arbery’s race was a driving factor in the plot, and she claims the police officers did not do enough to defend her son and denied him his constitutional rights. The claim also states that the district attorneys have denied Rash access to the courts and that she is responsible for Arbery’s death. Barnhill has been sued for libel.
Rash contended that Arbery’s assertions of a conspiracy were unfounded since Cooper-James had not shown any evidence of racial bias and lacked the authority to deputize the men who had chased him. Even though he encouraged the homeowner to call Gregory McMichael “day or night when you receive action on your video,” he claimed he had no way of knowing what would happen.
Cooper-James countered the allegations in a letter she filed last Wednesday, claiming that Rash had “extensive chats” with the father and son about the burglaries and implicated all the “Blacks” living in Satilla Shores.
The lawsuit further claimed that when Officer Ricky Minshew arrived on the scene, he did not assist Arbery. In contrast, the police officer contended that the mother’s due process claim should be thrown out because Arbery was shot by an unaffiliated third party. Cooper-James claimed that her son had been taken into custody by the time Minshew arrived, arguing that his murderers had executed a citizen’s arrest after being encouraged to believe they had the power to do so.
The man’s mother also claimed that civil rights breaches persisted because of a tolerant attitude among the county police force.
Cooper-James claims Johnson and Barnhill worked together to hide the murders from authorities so that the killers wouldn’t face justice. It was argued by both the outgoing and incoming district attorneys that it was impossible for people inside the same organization to plot against each other.