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Runners Across U.S. Pay Tribute To Ahmaud Arbery With #IRunWithMaud

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There was outrage after a video surfaced online this week showing the moment that Ahmaud Arbery was killed as he jogged in coastal Georgia. Yesterday, people around the country came together virtually for a 2.23-mile run to mark February 23, the day that he died. The protest was a big moment for a movement, one that was forced mostly online by the coronavirus pandemic, as Emma Hurt of member station WABE reports.

EMMA HURT, BYLINE: The posts poured in all day long, photos of smartwatches showing 2.23-mile-long runs, jogs and walks - sweaty people, some wearing homemade shirts and signs, posting messages of solidarity and support for Arbery's family on what would have been Arbery's 26th birthday. Here's Malcolm Jenkins, an NFL player.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

MALCOM JENKINS: Happy birthday to Ahmaud Arbery. Rest in peace, king - doing my job for you. Even though they arrested those two men, we got to make sure they don't forget his face and that he gets his justice in court.

HURT: Arbery was killed in February while jogging through a mostly white neighborhood in Brunswick. The white father and son who chased him down weren't arrested for months until a video of the killing leaked on Tuesday. That's when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked to take over the case, and authorities then arrested them two days later. Running was a big part of who Arbery was, says his former high school football coach Jason Vaughn.

JASON VAUGHN: Running is what Maud did all the time. I mean, unless it was pouring down rain, Maud was going to find somewhere to exercise. He was going to find somewhere to run.

HURT: Arbery would go on long runs to clear his head, Vaughn says. And so the idea of #IRunWithMaud made sense. Plus, it's pandemic-approved. Many of the runners who posted online were wearing masks.

VAUGHN: With social distancing, we had to do something that could keep people safe but yet get the message across about the tragedies that happened to this family that we love and this family and our community.

HURT: He says the coronavirus has been one of the most difficult parts of trying to organize the protest movement. Arbery's case has been compared to that of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Florida eight years ago. At that time, tens of thousands of people rallied around the country in outrage. That just hasn't been possible for Arbery. But protest isn't the only way to hold authorities accountable, says NAACP President Derrick Johnson.

DERRICK JOHNSON: The actual protest in a traditional manner is only a tool or vehicle to ensure we, as a nation, can have an accountable government that's transparent, that meet the needs and interests of all of its citizens.

HURT: He says voting, for example, is crucial. Arbery's coach Vaughn says they're thinking through the next steps of the virtual #IRunWithMaud movement. He says seeing the posts come in has felt good to feel the attention on the case. He posted his own video Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

VAUGHN: Maud, with God's strength, I will not get tired until we get justice, until your family finds peace. I want you to know this morning, Maud, that you got a whole community behind you. I run with Maud.

HURT: And they're not stopping until there's a guilty verdict, says Akeem Baker, one of Arbery's friends.

AKEEM BAKER: This was a tragedy. And this was a heinous crime. And we will not stop running for Ahmaud. We will continue to run from here on after.

HURT: The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says his agency's continuing to look into the case, and more arrests are possible. For NPR News, I'm Emma Hurt in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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