A Rally for Justice march from Centennial Park to the State Capitol in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis, MN police officer turned into a violent protest in Downtown on Friday evening.
Protesters attacked police cars with barricades, set fire to a police cruiser on Centennial Park Drive, smashed windows at CNN Center, looted McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant, and clashed with officers. Heavily armed police moved in making arrests, using aerosol dispersants, and firing bean bag rounds at the crowd. In Midtown, protesters briefly blocked the Downtown Connector between 10th and 14th streets.
The demonstrations had started peacefully around 3 p.m., but a group of several hundred protesters splintered off from a group of thousands to protest outside CNN Center and block Centennial Olympic Drive.
APD Chief Erika Shields was walking among the crowd outside CNN Center and said she had no problem with the protesters demonstrating their First Amendment rights and did not want the evening to devolve into an “arrest fest.” Earlier, Shields denounced Floyd’s murder calling the fired and charged Minneapolis officer a “failed cop and human being.”
An emotional and angry Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a 9 p.m. press conference that protesters were not helping their cause. She denounced the violent protesters as “disruptors” seeking to create chaos.
“You are disgracing your city and the life of George Floyd and the life of everyone who has been killed. We are better than this. Go home, go home!” Bottoms said. “What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta, this is not a protest, this is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., this is chaos. A protest has purpose. If you’re breaking out windows and running down the street with liquor in your hand, who are you honoring and remembering?”
Killer Mike, rap star and entrepreneur, cried as he encouraged people to fight injustice by filling out the Census and registering to vote. He also encouraged the return of the city’s police review board to get ahead of problems that have beset other cities. “After you burn down your own home, all you have left is char and ash,” he said.
Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr, reiterated her father’s message that constructive change can only come through nonviolence.