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Crowds gather, jurors begin arriving at trial of three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery

'We're not forgetting that this happened': Protesters from Missouri, Chicago, Philadelphia gather outside Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection gets underway.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Donnita Patterson-Brown missed the bus -- literally -- but she refused to miss the rally. When her husband's work ran late Friday and the tour bus couldn't wait for them, she says, they and their young granddaughter decided to just drive.  

"It's that important to me," she said. 

Patterson-Brown was one of dozens of supporters from around the country in Brunswick for the first day of the trial of three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Greg and Travis McMichael and William "Roddy" Bryan were in court Monday charged with malice murder and several other charges. They face life in prison if convicted. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection got underway two miles from the courthouse at the Bubba Perry Gymnasium at Selden Park. 

"Activity has been brisk, as we suspected it would be, everything is running smoothly, as we expected it would be," Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump said shortly after 9 a.m. "We've got a lot of unknowns. And we'll tackle them each one at a time and move forward."

RELATED: Watch Live: Jury selection begins in death of Ahmaud Arbery trial


Jump, who would later visit the courthouse as well as the large media encampment outside it, said he hopes to keep a steady hand on the small town of Brunswick, even as its population temporarily swells.

"Community leaders, the family members -- they have all said that they want this to go fair, to go right," Jump said, "and without any missteps of anybody coming in, or that are here. They just want it to go good, 'cause the families. have that right to make sure everything is is solid."

At Selden Park, the jury pool was screened for hardship issues -- cases where people simply cannot serve do to illness or a family crisis. That was followed by preliminary jury selection in the afternoon, as which groups of 20 will be questioned by Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley about their exposure to the case. A third stage will consist of a more traditional voir dire, in which jurors are probed about their life experiences and beliefs.

As that process began inside court, the wide, shaded lawn outside was busy with pastors, protesters and kids on scooters, who sang, chanted "Black Lives Matter," and "Say his name: Ahmaud Arbery!"

Arbery's father Marcus Arbery Sr. spoke briefly after leaving court at noon. "If we get justice my son will rest in peace. Until then we won't get no rest."

With Arbery Sr. was attorney Benjamin Crump, who has been involved in the case from its earliest days. 

“This case is eerily similar to that of Trayvon Martin, another young African-American who was shot and killed by a citizen," Crump told reporters. "The difference between Trayvon Martin and Ahmad Arbery is there's video in Amman Aubrey, and we expect full justice for Ahmaud Arbery.”

Jury selection is expected to last at least two weeks.