The Atlanta Police Department made an additional 52 arrests during Tuesday’s protests, according to a statement released just before midnight. That brings the number of arrests since Friday to more than 400.
The fifth day of protests began peacefully at locations around the city, including along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail and at the State Capitol. Protesters marched through Midtown, winding along Spring, West Peachtree and Peachtree streets, pausing to kneel in honor of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man murdered by police.
By late afternoon, things started to take an ugly turn when National Guard troops and state police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from around the State Capitol. Stores at Underground Atlanta and Five Points, including a Foot Locker, were looted.
By the time the 9 p.m. curfew rolled around, protesters were back at Centennial Olympic Park. Just before the curfew went into effect, agitators began pelting the police with bottles, rocks, and smoke bombs.
APD officers in full riot gear and backed by National Guard troops in armored vehicles dispersed the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters were seen entering the Margaritaville hotel construction site along Centennial Park Drive to find projectiles. Law enforcement had mostly cleared Downtown by 10 p.m.
Earlier in the day, GBI director Vic Reynolds confirmed that he had seen intelligence that outside agitators from “various groups” and “certain organizations” were involved in the violence, looting, and arson during Atlanta’s protests.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appeared on CNN and said she was concerned about the level of force being used by state law enforcement and the National Guard.
“It’s been a personal concern for me since Friday when we had to call in for reinforcements,” Bottoms said. “We allow peaceful protests to go uninterrupted, but we can’t control what these agencies do. Protesters being gassed and shot with rubber bullets is a lot more aggressive than what we would do on a local level.”
Bottoms reiterated her concern about the spread of COVID-19 during the protests and urged protesters to get tested. “We are still in the middle of a pandemic and we aren’t supposed to be in close contact. We’ll see what this will mean for our community in a couple of weeks.”
The mayor also mused with CNN anchor Don Lemon on the historic protests happening in Atlanta and around the country. “As I was watching your coverage, I started thinking about 1965 and if the people watching TV then understood the magnitude of what was happening. We’re seeing a similar shift in the nation.”