A statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle in a park less than a mile from the Georgia courthouse where three white men are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, has been hidden in plain sight, wrapped in sheets of plastic apparently to protect it from vandalism.
The monument that has stood for 119 years in the center of Hanover Square in Brunswick, Georgia, has become a lightning rod for discourse in the Glynn County community since Arbery was allegedly chased down and fatally shot in 2020 while, according to prosecutors, he was out for a Sunday jog.
Brunswick City Manager Regina McDuffie said the marble statue was wrapped in plastic by a local resident.
"A private citizen wanted to try to ensure the statue was not damaged since we just started the trial in the Arbery case," McDuffie told ABC Jacksonville, Florida, affiliate WJXX. "It is not the city's plan. We don't have anything to do with it as far as how long it will stay [wrapped]."
The Brunswick City Commission voted in November 2020 to remove that statue, but no timeline was set. A Georgia Court of Appeals ruling in August that denied a motion to block the removal of Confederate monuments paved the way for the city to uproot the statue.
The statue was vandalized last year, spray-painted with the letters BLM (Black Lives Matter) on its pedestal.
The murder trial of the three men who prosecutors allege chased down and shot Arbery to death on Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick began last week with jury selection.
The accused are Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52.
The three men have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The jury selection phase of the trial went into its sixth day on Tuesday. No jurors have been selected yet for the high-profile trial, which is expected to last a month.
About 1,000 Glynn County residents received jury-duty summonses in the case. Attorneys are attempting to whittle that number down to a pool of 64 qualified prospective jurors, of which 16, including four alternates, will be seated to hear the case. As of Tuesday afternoon, 32 would-be jurors have been chosen for the qualified pool.
Bryan's attorney Kevin Gough claimed in court on Tuesday that protests occurring outside the courthouse are having undue influence on potential jurors. Gough asked Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy R. Walmsley, who was appointed to preside over the Glynn County trial, to "ban all protest or First Amendment activity from this area until the conclusion of this trial."
Walmsley denied the motion.