Protest Paper: Ahmaud Arbery’s mother accuses activists of cashing in on her son’s death

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The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was fatally shot by a White man while jogging outside Brunswick in Georgia, has lashed out at individuals and organizations making money off her son’s death without her permission.

In statement obtained by TMZ, Wanda Cooper-Jones specifically called out the 2.23 Foundation, I Run with Maud, as well as other foundations. She said prior to releasing the statement, she reached out to both organizations on several occasions in an effort to resolve her grievances but to no avail.

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“It is with great disappointment that I must now elaborate on this situation with the founders of 2.23 and creators of I Run with Maud when I am still grieving, still advocating, still seeking justice, and still trying to adjust to the loss of Ahmaud,” she wrote.  

“I cannot in good conscience support a page that now appears more like a business opportunity for its staff rather than getting justice for my son.”

According to Wanda, the “I Run with Maud” social media page was initially created by a friend of  Ahmaud with her blessing to specifically draw “awareness” of the circumstances surrounding her son’s passing and also serve as memorial. She claims the page, however, metamorphosed into a money-making venture over the course of time.

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“When the page began to transition to a business, my daughter and I addressed our concerns with the page administrators,” she wrote. “They originally acknowledged the transition and stated it would be corrected, however, that never took place. I also asked to have access to the page as an administrator several times, and was ultimately denied any access, which began to alarm me.”

The I Run with Maud Facebook page is currently unavailable. Wanda also claims a trademark for “I Run with Maud” that was filed on May 9 – a day after her son’s birthday and two days after the arrest of the McMichaels’ – was done without her permission. She said one of the individuals who filed the application never knew her son, “yet applied for this trademark in an attempt to profit off Ahmaud’s name.”

Wanda revealed she did not also request for the “I Run With Maud” GoFundMe to be set up in the name of her son. The account in question has raised almost $2 million so far, but Wanda claims she hasn’t received any funds from it, though the page says the money will be going to her, TMZ reports. She said she has already returned to work, writing:

The GoFundMe was suggested to me by one of Ahmaud’s friends and I put my trust and faith into him that everything would be run appropriately. The campaign was established in early May, after Ahmaud was laid to rest.

Ahmaud was covered under a life insurance policy that I struggled to pay for to prepare for days like these. I truly never thought I would have to use that policy or bury my son. Money cannot replace what I have lost and the fight for justice does not come without cost. I was not begging for money and I was prepared to fight for my son either way. I have always worked for what I wanted.

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Wanda mentioned the 2.23 Foundation (the numbers represent the date Ahmaud was fatally shot) as another group profiting off her son’s death. She said its founder, Jason Vaughn (a local high school coach), never had any close relationship with her son.

“The ideas for the foundation likely started after national attention began to spread due to our advocacy efforts. Within seven days of the foundation’s launch, its organizers had already planned a large fundraiser,” she claimed.

She continued:

The I RUN FOR MAUD committee (all five members who I do not know well) have known for months I did not want my child’s death to be exploited or used for monetary gain for anyone. I was disrespected and ignored.

I could not remain silent, I not only speak for myself, but most importantly I speak for my son. What is important to me is to gain justice for my son and find peace. I am so disappointed that I must address this issue. The truth is I buried my son and there is nothing about a trademark, a social media page, money, or control that will fix that. I now must protect my son’s name.

Arbery, 25, was fatally shot and killed on February 23 after he was confronted by Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, while he was jogging outside Brunswick in Georgia. The older McMichael, who is a retired cop, had told officers that they had chased Arbery in a truck after he thought Arbery looked like a suspect who had been connected to a number of burglaries in the Brunswick area.

The McMichaels were arrested May 7 on charges of murder and aggravated assault after a leaked video of the incident sparked national outrage and renewed calls for those involved in his death to be held accountable. The man who filmed the shooting, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., was also arrested May 21 and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

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