Saturday, May 30, 2020

Businesses Find Broken Windows, Trash Day After Atlanta Demonstration
Protests over the deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans led to damages. Businesses were seen cleaning up the morning after.

By Andrea V. Watson
Patch Staff
May 30, 2020 12:48 pm ET

Businesses along Peachtree Road near Lenox Square were vandalized by some protestors Friday night. (Andrea V. Watson/Patch)

ATLANTA, GA — The aftermath of Friday's peaceful — turned violent — protest has left parts of Atlanta in disarray. About midnight, Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency for Fulton County. Although the chaos has completely dissipated as of Saturday morning, there's still much work to be done.

Workers were seen near Lenox Square on Peachtree Road sweeping the sidewalks, clearing it of shattered glass broken by rioters the night before. Patio chairs and potted plants were smashed through windows. Left behind trash littered the street. Several businesses, including Maggiano's Little Italy had their windows broken.

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and George Floyd in Minnesota sparked a movement for justice, not just in Atlanta, but across the country.

A protest march Friday from the Georgia capitol to Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park drew thousands, authorities estimated, but the promoted "peaceful" protest, organized under the #ATLFORUS hashtag, quickly changed when unruly crowds gathered to break windows at CNN's headquarters.

From there, things escalated.

Some of the marchers broke off and objects were thrown at police, cars were set on fire, and stores were looted.

Atlanta police said they are working on collecting the number of arrests, along with names and charges. They are also gathering the number of vehicles and businesses damaged, injuries and incident reports.

The first reported damage was done to the CNN Center. The violence spread and fire damaged a Ruth's Chris Steak House and a local Starbucks. The Chick-fil-A next to the College Football Hall of Fame was also been broken into. From there crowds moved to Lenox Square, where there were reports of looting.

Atlanta Police said protestors caused "extensive damage to patrol vehicles and buildings" near Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Marietta Street. Several businesses were looted in the same area. Small fires were started, including to an APD patrol vehicle. Police said with the help of multiple local and state law enforcement agencies, they are working to restore order in the city.

As properties were being destroyed, Mayor Keisha Bottoms held a news conference around 9 p.m. at police headquarters to urge Atlantans who are angry about the most recent deaths of blacks at the hands of whites to "go home" and make the change at the polls. She was joined by rappers and Bernice King, the daughter of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The mayor urged people to stop and return home immediately.

"If you care about this city then go home," she said. "You're not protesting anything by running out with brown liquor in your hands. When you burn down this city you're burning down our community.

"If you want change in America register to vote. Show up to our polls June 9. That is the change we need in this country," the mayor told protesters. "You're disgracing our city and the life of George Floyd and anyone else killed in this country. We are better than this as a city and county. ... We're no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We're now talking about the burning of the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Go home."

Rapper T.I. said Atlanta has always been a place where African Americans can prosper when other cities haven't given them a chance.

"Atlanta has been there for us, Atlanta doesn't deserve this...we can't do this here, it's 'Wakanda,' [and] must be protected," he said.

"If we lose Atlanta, what else do we have?" asked Killer Mike, a rapper, actor, and activist.

King said she was left without a father as a child, just as the daughter of Floyd lost her father at age 6.

"This is a moment where people are fed up. I have to make an appeal to my brothers and sisters because I realize the only way to get constructive change is through nonviolent means," King said.

Her father said "riots are the language of the unheard. The part we often miss is about the unheard. This is a time when we all have to listen — the cries coming out of the hearts and souls and other young brother and sisters in the streets. Things can't go back to how they were yesterday.

"The only path I know is nonviolent means, it's a proven method," King added. "It didn't fail my father...what is the end goal? We want change and we want it now, but it never comes through violence, that causes more problems..."

As the mayor was urging everyone to go home, back in the streets some in the crowds were shooting BB guns at police officers. In return, police fired tear gas into the crowd.

"If you care about a peaceful protest you're not longer in one, organize and come back," Lance-Bottoms said. "We are all angry, this hurts. But what are you changing by tearing up a city? You've lost all credibility now."

Kemp had tweeted just before 10:30 p.m. that state law enforcement officials have been working closely with Mayor Bottoms and the Atlanta Police throughout the day.

"When asked to provide support and assistance, the state immediately responded, and we will continue to do so," Kemp tweeted. "The safety of our citizens remains our top priority. We stand with the mayor and urge everyone to go home."

Officers had to start using bullhorns to order the protesters to disperse.

Atlanta Police said the demonstration began peacefully with a march from Centennial Olympic Park to the Capitol and back. Most protesters entered the park, while some walked south on Centennial Olympic Park Drive where they surrounded an officer inside his patrol vehicle.

"Additional officers arrived and began to push protesters back away from the vehicle, which led to a number of scuffles between police and protesters and at least three arrests," the police department said in a statement. "One officer was pushed to the ground and sustained minor injuries. It does appear pepper spray was utilized several times during the confrontation.

Water bottles, eggs and other items were thrown at officers.

The executive order from Kemp allows up to 500 members of the Georgia National Guard to be used to respond in Atlanta.

He also ordered that "all resources" of the state of Georgia be made available to assist Atlanta and Fulton County during this state of emergency.

Patch will update this breaking news. Patch Editors Kathleen Sturgeon and Deb Belt contributed to this article.

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