Mayor pays tribute to Vivian and Lewis, updates on mask lawsuit, crime spike, federal troops in cities

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a second virtual press conference in as many weeks on July 23 and paid tribute to civil rights leaders C.T. Vivian and Rep. John Lewis, as well as offered updates on COVID-19, spikes in crime, federal troops being sent to cities, and more.

Bottoms said she attended the funeral service for Vivian at Providence Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday morning. “It was incredibly moving, and hit home for me what an enormous loss we are experiencing as a community with the passing of C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis.”

“Those who have been part of the community for so long, know they were more than icons, but part of who we are as a community,” Bottoms said. “It’s truly a loss for Atlanta and the entire nation.”

Before continuing her briefing, the mayor quoted Vivian: “People do not choose rebellion, it is always forced upon them. Revolution is always an act of self-defense.”

“I think that it’s appropriate for where we are today,” Bottoms said of the quote.

Bottoms said COVID-19 cases continue to surge and encouraged residents to visit to get testing site information and find relief efforts. She said funds had been set aside for emergency rental assistance for those facing evictions and to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Bottoms reiterated the comments she made on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon about her conversation with Gov. Brian Kemp on avoiding a court showdown over the city’s mask mandate and reopening guidelines for businesses.

While the press conference was happening, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick ordered both sides to go to mediation before a scheduled July 28 hearing.

She described her conversation with Kemp as “very good” and said it was “abundantly clear” that they both wanted what was best for the state and agreed that “masks save lives.”

“It is not my desire to have a public fight,” Bottoms said. “I’d rather spend my energy leading the city through COVID-19 and other challenges facing the city. I trust the governor wants to do the same with the state.”

Bottoms said she still believes Atlanta is on solid legal ground when it comes to masks, and noted the Georgia Municipal Association’s amicus brief in support of the city.

The mayor said public safety remains one of her top concerns and acknowledged the spike in violent crime – especially gun crime – in recent weeks. She said while much of the activity was gang and drug related, innocent bystanders were being put in harm’s way and she was working with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to address the challenges.

One of the other challenges is the recent controversy over young people selling water at street corners and interstate off-ramps. There have been numerous incidents of the so-called “water boys” becoming violent toward motorists who don’t want to buy water. Bottoms said APD had reached out to the youth to educate them and offer information on other job opportunities. She said an advisory council on youth entrepreneurship would also be making recommendations soon.

The mayor was one of 15 from cities around the country who signed a letter this week demanding that federal troops be withdrawn from Portland, OR and not be sent to other cities. In a controversial move, President Donald Trump has already ordered troops to Chicago as well.

“I don’t know if it will happen in Atlanta or not,” Bottoms said. “If this is an attempt to assist cities, there needs to be coordination with local law enforcement on how it can be maximized. But what’s happened in Portland it one of the most un-American things I’ve ever seen. People are being swept off the streets in unmarked cars without any coordination with local law enforcement.”

Bottoms said the lack of coordination with local police could create a scenario where law enforcement doesn’t recognize each other and puts officers and the public in harm’s way.

Watch the entire press conference at the link below.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is the editor of Atlanta Intown.