The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he has a “moral obligation” to be in court during the trial of three White men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery and will be present for the rest of the week and beyond.
“I am (standing) by people who are in need, backs against the wall,” Jackson said. “It’s what we do. So we are going to keep sitting with this family. It is a priority focus of ours now.”
Jackson’s remarks Monday came after defense attorney Kevin Gough attempted to have Jackson removed from court as the civil rights leader sat with Arbery’s family. Gough insists that prominent Black pastors such as Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has also been at the trial, can influence the jury. Last week, Gough asked the judge to ban Black pastors from court and later apologized for it.
On Monday, Gough said he objected to Jackson’s presence in the public gallery inside the courtroom.
“How many pastors does that Arbery family have? We had the Rev. Al Sharpton here earlier last week… I don’t know who Mr. Jackson, Rev. Jackson is pastoring here,” Gough said.
“We are concerned about whether it conscious or unconscious, the impact of their presence with respect to the jury and with respect to the proceedings in this case,” he added.
The judge denied Gough’s request.
It’s common for prominent Black pastors to accompany Black families to court and public events to provide support when they have lost loved ones to police brutality or vigilante violence. Some have been appointed as spokespeople for grieving families.
Jackson announced Friday that he would be in court this week, saying Gough’s line of thinking was “unacceptable.” Gough had suggested that Jackson attended the trial last week, but he was not present.
Sharpton said Gough is showing disregard for a family’s right to have “someone present to give spiritual strength to bear this pain.”
“This is pouring salt into their wounds,” Sharpton said.
CNN’s Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells contributed.