As protests against the officer-involved shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota move into a fifth day, Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta Police Chief George Turner held a press conference Monday morning, July 11, to give updates on this weekend’s demonstrations.
Once again, Reed said protestors would not be allowed on to the interstates. “It’s unacceptable and creates a risk we will not tolerate. Innocent motorists are trying to make it home or to work. I ask the protestors to continue to demonstrate in a peaceful fashion,” Reed said.
Reed said more than 15,000 have marched in Atlanta over the past four days and less than 25 arrests made by APD and the Georgia State Patrol. However, he said the demeanor of the protests had changed on Saturday and Sunday nights with demonstrators having no affiliation with organized groups. “That concerns us,” Reed said.
The mayor said he supported people exercising their Constitutional right to assemble and march, but encouraged protestors and officers to “turn toward each other with great dignity, great respect and great restraint.”
He said APD has cancelled all off days and officers – including administrative staff – have been working 12 hour shifts and put in 6,000 hours of overtime. Reed said officers were tired from the long shifts, hot weather and the concern over copycats of the sniper attack in Dallas last week that left five police officers dead.
Chief Turner also reiterated the mayor’s remarks. “If you choose to demonstrate, do so with respect and peace. Obey the officers and their instructions. APD is encouraging conversation and dialogue and we will talk to anyone who wants constructive dialogue,” Turner said.
Reed also thanked former Atlanta mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young for speaking to officers about organized protests. Young’s comments have been controversial after he said protestors had been allowed to “show off with no consequences” and referred to some of them as “unlovable little brats.”
“I would remind individuals that he [Young] has great knowledge about organized protest,” Reed said, noting Young’s assistance in organizing the iconic march in Selma, AL. during the Civil Rights protests.
Both Reed and Turner pushed back again on the continued social media speculation about a black man found hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park last week. A preliminary investigation has ruled the death a suicide. The incident has been turned over to the FBI for additional investigation.
“I want to push back on this urban legend about what happened in Piedmont Park,” Reed said, declining to give the deceased man’s name until his family has been notified. “This was not a lynching and the Ku Klux Klan was not in the park passing out literature. This is flat out incorrect information.”
He encouraged those on social media not to inflame protests with incorrect information and lies.