It started out as peaceful protest. But by Friday night, an Atlanta police vehicle was set on fire and windows were broken when a protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned violent.
At least three people were arrested and one officer was pushed to the ground, according to police.
At 8:29 p.m., looters were seen entering the CNN Center and the McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant.
8:25 p.m.: In an interview with Channel 2 Action News, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young said, “I’m thinking I want to cry. This was a good demonstration that went bad … in the last half hour it’s disintegrated.”
Hope for peaceful ending
Shortly before 8 p.m., Atlanta Police say they are attempting to allow the protesters to continue with a peaceful demonstration.
“Officers have been subjected to water bottles, eggs and other items being thrown at them. However we remain hopeful this activity will cease and there will be no need for further arrests or clashes with protesters,” a department spokesman told the AJC.
Georgia World Congress Center Police Chief Paul Guerrucci told Channel 2 Action News he supports “allowing people to voice their opinions, their feelings, their concerns – peacefully. People have the right to have answers. At the end of the day we’re all in this together. Reform is necessary. We support that and will continue in that effort.”
His agency works closely with APD and Chief Erika Shields.
“She’s doing a tremendous job under the circumstances, and we’re on the same page.”
Outside CNN center
As the demonstration continued, protestors began throwing water bottles at a person in the crowd who tried to calm the situation by telling those gathered that police were not at fault, according to AJC reporters who are outside the CNN Center following the crowd.
The CNN Center and its restaurants are closed, but some of the windows have been broken or are cracked.
Mayor Bottoms told Channel 2, “I understand the frustration. This is a very scary and frustrating time in America. This is a very uncertain time for all of us. We started a movement here that changed the globe, and it was a nonviolent movement.”
She asked protestors to respect that legacy.
“There are some people who simply want to be disruptors and it’s unfortunate. The vast majority of people out there are out there for the right reasons. I just ask people to respect the legacy of who we are, and the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
She noted that half of the businesses in Atlanta are owned by women and minorities and said unruly protests aren’t in keeping with Atlanta’s values.
“As a city we are better than this. We know how to effectuate change. We know what a successful protest looks like. We don’t want this death or any other death to get lost in violence and mayhem. What we want is a lasting change. We don’t want a sensational moment on television.”
In an interview with Channel 2 Action News, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said, “People are upset. They’re angry, they’re scared. I get it. They want to be heard, and I think they have a right to be heard.”
As tensions mounted outside the CNN center around 7 p.m., some in the large crowd began defacing the CNN sign. Police have repeatedly asked the crowd to disperse.
Shortly before 7 p.m., Gov. Brian Kemp retweeted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ statement with a message encouraging protestors to exercise their Constitutional rights safely.
In her statement, Bottoms said people are expected to exercise their rights to protest and asked them to “remember Atlanta’s legacy of peaceful protest leading to progress.”
By later Friday afternoon, the event turned chaotic outside the CNN Center, where some of the protesters were seen in scuffles with officers. Pepper spray was deployed and some in the crowd began to disperse.
Shortly before 6 p.m., Atlanta officers were urging crowds to disperse and refrain from blocking streets.
Floyd died while in police custody last week, and video of the incident sparked a national outcry. Friday afternoon, Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who has been implicated in Floyd’s death, was taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to reports.
‘No justice, no peace’
They carried signs and chanted their messages of outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. By the time the crowd had made the 2.5-mile trek from Centennial Olympic Park to the state capitol, hundreds had joined in.
The protest Friday afternoon through downtown Atlanta started out mostly peaceful, but the message was strong.
The participants, most clad in masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 embarked from Centennial Olympic Park at 3:50 pm on their way to the capital to protest the killing of George Floyd. They chanted “no justice, no peace,” but when a motorcycle battalion of police officers road by, they switched to “Don’t Shoot.”
Lamont Wilson, 34, asks the question: “Am I next,” during the rally.
“I’ve had moments where I did fear for my life and feared for my safety,” Wilson said from his road bike. “But I fear for the young brothers. We focus on the killings but there is so much injustice that comes before that too.”
The crowd was notably diverse, from a black woman doing the full march in a motorized wheel chair to a middle-aged white man carrying a sign reading, “I AM A THUG,” to a young Hispanic man blasting KRS-ONE’s “Sound of Da Police,” from a speaker in his pocket.
Atlanta’s top cop responds
Atlanta’s police chief said the Minneapolis officers involved in the death of Floyd failed both as “cops and human beings.”
In a two-minute video posted on the department’s social media pages, Chief Erika Shields said the behavior is not indicative of the entire law enforcement community.
“How disconnected does law enforcement have to be for a man to be suffocated by a cop in broad daylight, knowing the cameras are rolling with fellow officers stand around watching?” Shields said. “There’s not an answer to this because it’s not reasonable in any sense of the word.”
Shields’ comments came Thursday as riots continued in Minneapolis protesting Floyd’s death.
Vice President Pence addresses shooting
At a stop at the Unity National Bank in Atlanta, a minority owned bank, Vice President Mike Pence briefly addressed the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia.
“Our prayers are with George Floyd’s family. Our prayers are also with the family of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
“We have no tolerance for racism in America. We have no tolerance for violence inspired by racism. And as President Trump said, justice will be served.”
He added: “We also believe in law and order in this country. We condemn violence against property or persons. We will also always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard.”
©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
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