In powerful TikTok commentary on Ahmaud Arbery shooting, white man carries TV while running

Justin Chan
In The Know

A 34-year-old former white pastor ran 2.23 miles in his Florida neighborhood to make a strong statement about the death of 25-year-old Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery.

On May 8, the day of Arbery’s birthday, Richard Demsick took to TikTok to share a video of himself running while carrying a flat-screen TV on his shoulder.

“Hey guys, just going on a leisurely jog here in the South, in the suburb, carrying a TV and perfectly safe,” he says. “I wonder why that is. I run with Ahmaud.”

@jestertotheking

##runwithmaud##irunwithmaud##runwithahmaud happy birthday Ahmaud. Sad to me I ran today with no fear in a similar neighborhood carrying a TV

♬ original sound - jestertotheking

The clip went viral, receiving over 200,000 views in just four days.

“You nailed it,” one user wrote in response. “Thank you so much.”

“You brought a tear to my eye for you to totally understand the injustice,” another wrote.

In a follow-up clip, Demsick is seen running shirtless with his hat on backwards.

“Alright, I figured it out,” he says. “I got my hat on backwards. I’m shirtless like I’m on some episode of ‘Cops.’ I’m running with the TV. Someone’s going to stop me now for sure ’cause, if not, what was the problem with Ahmaud?”

@jestertotheking

##irunwithmaud part two! Really thought I figured it out guys but made it home safe after my 2.23 mile run 🤷🏻‍♂️ ##runwithmaud##runwithahmaud##fyp

♬ original sound - jestertotheking

To further highlight his privilege as a white man, Demsick interviewed his mother in another clip three days later.

“Hey mom, when I told you I was going to run through a neighborhood carrying a TV, did you worry for my safety?” he asks her.

@jestertotheking

Dedicated to all black mothers especially Ahmaud Arberys’ we can not understand your pain but we will not forget your story. Prayin ##blacklivesmatter

♬ original sound - jestertotheking

“No,” she respond.

“Did you think someone would call the police?” he then asks.

When she replies with the same answer, Demsick says he wonders why that is.

In an interview with Insider, the 34-year-old said he felt compelled to run in his neighborhood of Vero Beach to show the unequal treatment that white and Black people receive. The neighborhood had recently experienced a string of thefts.

“I just started crying when I just saw this poor young man running — as I have thousands of times in my life — get shot down,” he said, adding he thought, “Maybe I should run with a TV to show that being a suspicious character isn’t enough that someone should be shot down. Being a white person, that’s just not going to happen to me.”

The former pastor, who grew up in Detroit, revealed that he had led a primarily upper-class conservative church before starting an outreach ministry to help those struggling with homelessness and other issues. In that group, he has spoken regularly about racism, he said.

“If you’re a white person trying to put yourself in black people’s shoes, you’re just a white person in a black person’s shoes,” he said.

Arbury was shot three times while jogging in Georgia’s Satilla Shores neighborhood on February 23, according to CNN. More than two months later, police arrested Greg McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis, 34, who claimed that they had thought Arbury matched the description of a suspect that was involved in a series of break-ins. Records, however, show that there had only been one burglary in the seven weeks prior to Arbury’s death, Glynn County police lieutenant Cheri Bashlor told the network.

The shooting prompted widespread criticism of the prosecutors who initially handled Arbury’s case and refused to press charges against the McMichaels. It also sparked the #IRunWithAhmaud movement, in which supporters of the 25-year-old, including Desmick, ran in his honor.

If you’re interested in stories like this, consider helping the Black community as it grapples with the disproportionate effects of the current health crisis.

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