Cleanup continues after night of violence rocks Atlanta

Workers clean up the defaced CNN logo outside CNN Center in Downtown. (Photo courtesy CBS46)

Georgia National Guard and police are patrolling areas of Downtown Atlanta and Buckhead on Saturday after a night of looting, vandalism, arson, and violence rocked the city.

Cleanup is underway in the hard-hit Centennial Park district, which was a flashpoint for the violence that devolved from a peaceful protest of the killing of George Floyd by  Minneapolis police officers.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued the following statement on Saturday afternoon: “The Department of Public Works deployed crews early this morning to begin cleaning up our streets in the downtown and Buckhead areas of the city and our public safety officials are working to keep our businesses and communities safe. The Department of Transportation is working to remove graffiti from public buildings in those areas as well. We also coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions to provide additional public safety resources and with the Governor’s office to provide assistance from the National Guard to help with our recovery.”

Citizen volunteers and work crews were already clearing glass, boarding up hundreds of broken windows and assessing losses after looting at The College Football Hall of Fame, McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant, CNN Center, Waffle House, Chick-fil-A, and Starbucks to name a few. The pavement along Centennial Park Drive and Park Drive were scorched after protesters set three police cars on fire. A visitor’s center inside Centennial Park was destroyed by fire and the Olympic Rings defaced by graffiti.

While the Atlanta Police Department hasn’t released arrest figures, TV news and social media showed two “jail buses” being filled with detainees. Georgia State Patrol officers in riot gear and the National Guard joined APD to regain control and clear the streets in the early morning hours after Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in Fulton County. Tear gas and bean bag rounds were fired into the crowd to disperse demonstrators.

APD posted a statement on its Facebook page after midnight that several of its officers had been injured in the Downtown fracas and multiple shots were fired at an officer in Buckhead as the violence moved north. Officers had water bottles, rocks, firecrackers and knives thrown at them during the standoffs.

Dozens of social media posts showed looting at the “Disco Kroger” and Binders art store at Piedmont and Peachtree, Target at Lenox Marketplace, The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, and inside Phipps Plaza where the Gucci and Dior shops were ransacked. Icebox jewelry store on Peachtree Road reported broken windows, but looters were unable to breach the store’s safe.

Atlanta Fire Department vehicles were attacked as firemen extinguished a blaze set at Del Frisco’s Grille.

Mayor Bottoms also said in her statement: “What we saw overnight was not a protest, and it was not Atlanta. We as a people are strongest when we use our voices to heal our city instead of using our hands to tear it down. We know our citizens are angry. We are angry and we want justice. If we are to enact change in this nation, I implore everyone to channel their anger and sorrow into something more meaningful and effective through non-violent activism. What started out as a peaceful demonstration, quickly turned into mayhem and unnecessary destruction, and ultimately an assault on businesses that are already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Protests were set to continue on Saturday, including a demonstration planned outside the Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Road at 5 p.m., according to social media posts.

Georgia National Guard members on patrol outside the looted College Football Hall of Fame in Downtown. (Photo courtesy CBS46)

See more photos of the cleanup at CBS 46 at this link.