UPDATE: Protesters vowing to continue late demonstrations

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UPDATE: Protesters vowing to continue late demonstrations

Updated: 3:40 a.m.: Protesters and police have left the Downtown Connector entrance at Williams Street. WSB TV's Darryn Moore reports the entrance ramp to I-75/85 at Williams Street is open to traffic.

Updated: 11:15 p.m.: Jamie Lake,30, owner of American Sushi Recording Studio in Little Five Points was among the protesters still out late Friday night. He said he’s marching for his 9 year old daughter.

“She asked me not to get shot so I wore this bullet proof vest.” Lake says he hopes keeping protest alive late into the night will show people they’re “not protesting for no reason.”

The group is now moving back toward Centennial Olympic Park. The NAACP has asked the protesters to disperse and go home.

Updated 10:55 p.m.: Protesters are leaving the area around Williams Street and the Downtown Connector. Another group of protesters is around Peachtree and International Streets.

Channel 2 talked with, Chris Golden, the driver of the semi-truck that had been blocked by protesters.

Golden says he didn’t feel threatened by the crowds.

“We have to be one, to see everyone come together like that warmed my heart … we were all brothers out there today,” Golden told Channel 2. ” We have to have some action done because there’s so many people,especially black people, being gunned down.”

Golden, who is also a recording artist, said he was carrying a time-sensitive load.

Updated 10:25 p.m.: A tow truck has come in move the the now-abandoned semi-truck. Protesters had earlier been climbing on the truck. The protesters are now blocking and throwing water at the tow truck as police try to make way for the truck.

Some protesters have vowed to remain at the scene.

Updated 9:50 p.m.: After talking with protesters, Reed has left the scene, but says he plans to return later tonight. The crowd blocking the exit to I-75/85 at Williams Street has thinned, but hundreds of people remain in the area.

Reed also sent word on social media to another group of protesters to clear the roads. “There are a group of individuals at P’tree (Peachtree) & International that need to move. We have intelligence that some are encouraging violence,” Reed tweeted.

Updated 9:20 p.m.: Reed has arrived at the protest, and tells protesters they can continue, but making sure they did not enter the Connector.

Right now I want to make sure all you of you are safe,” Reed said.

“We’re gonna let these young people go forward with this protest,” he said. “We’re respecting their first amendment right and we’re the home of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

“During the civil rights movements they spent more time making sure people got home safe,” Reed told Channel 2 Action News.

Updated 9:00 p.m.: Mayor Kasim Reed is warning protesters not to block the Connector. “If you enter the highway, you endanger your own life, the lives of innocent motorists & the lives of our officers. We are better than that,” Reed tweeted Friday night.

Updated 8:23 p.m.: Georgia State Patrol Troopers are blocking protesters from entering I-75/85 at Williams Street. Police say they have made no arrests thus far.

Updated 7:15 p.m.: The protesters have resumed marching, and are moving away from the CNN Center.

Updated 6:50 p.m.: The marchers made it to the CNN Center. Chants heard from the crowd include: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it?” Now” and “Vote, vote, vote”

Check back to myAJC.com for a complete story on Friday’s demonstrations.

Updated 6:05 p.m.: The march has now started and the crowd has swelled to a few thousand people.

Rev. Francys Johnson, Georgia NAACP president addressed a cheering crowd:

“The logical conclusion of racism is genocide.”

Johnson said some “smooth talking politicians” who want votes are urging calm. “This is no time to be calm. You would be a fool to be calm if you are under genocide,” he said. “Racism is not a black problem, it’s a white problem.”

The crowd is on the move and is expected to end at the CNN Center where they will hear from additional speakers.

Updated 5:50 p.m.: The crowd has grown to several hundred people outside the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Ainslie Bayer, 17, a student at Ben Franklin Academy was attending the demonstration.

“Obviously I’m not black and I don’t know what it’s like to be the victim of these things … But it affects our nation as a whole. I don’t think all lives can matter until black lives do matter. Coming to things like this is the only thing I feel I can do.”

Later Friday, another event, dubbed a night of “prayer, action and solidarity” was scheduled for 7 p.m. at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta.

Updated 5:00 p.m.: People were beginning to gather in downtown Atlanta for demonstrations on Friday evening. About a couple hundred people, mostly young adults and teens, were at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights awaiting a 6:00 p.m. rally sponsored by the NAACP, along with Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta.

At one point the crowd began chanting, “we have nothing to lose but our chains”.

“We the people are going to have to bring justice to ourselves because the people who should be aren’t,” said Savannah resident Nykendra Smith, 21.

Smith, a senior at Georgia Southern University, waited for the rally with a sign that read, “There is no justice. There is just us.”

“I think things are going to change,” she said. “If we come together, everyone, not just the black community.”

Updated 3:15 p.m.: Kasim Reed began a press conference Friday by thanking members of the faith community who joined the press conference during a “very challenging time.”

He also expressed sorrow and concern over the deaths of law enforcement officers in Dallas and said he sent a note of support to Mayor Mike Rawlings, who he called a longtime friend.

“Our prayers in the city of Atlanta go out to the victims and their families,” Reed said.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said the Atlanta department has “moved to do a number of things differently than we have in the past.” He did not elaborate, later telling a reporter that the public would not be likely to notice the difference in how the police cover protests.

“We will not have tactical gear,” Turner said. “It will be very rare that you will be able to tell what we’re doing differently”

Turner asked the public for patience: “Give us an opportunity to work with you.”

Reed retook the podium, saying peaceful assembly and nonviolent protest are “part of the American fabric.”

“Peaceful protest also means following the instructions of law enforcement officers” and is restricted to public property, not private property, Reed said.

“We understand this is a painful time in America … that does not mean taking our frustration out on law enforcement officials,” Reed said.

The mayor was particularly concerned about protesters walking onto highways, saying they posed a risk to themselves, motorists and law enforcement.

“It is fundamentally unfair to everyone,” Reed said, noting that Civil Rights icons like Martin Luther King Jr. would not approve.

“We are clearly trying to show restraint on our side,” Reed said. He pleaded with protesters to maintain the traditions of protests organized by King: “which means that you respect the laws of the community that you are protesting in while maintaining your commitment to your mission.”

Taking a question from the audience, Chief Turner addressed the two black men who were fatally shot by police in widely circulated video this week. Turner called the videos “very disturbing.”

“I just encourage our citizens in the community … to literally allow these processes to take place,” Turner said. “Give us an opportunity to do the investigations … We have always been very forthcoming in this city in terms of our actions and holding our officers accountable.”

Of the racial dynamics of Atlanta, Reed said it was important to hold individual officers accountable but not paint law enforcement with a broad brush.

“I’m a black man too, I know what it is to be a black man but it doesn’t mean that you take your frustrations out by harming other people,” Reed said. He also emphasized the importance of demanding “fairness and equal treatment” for black citizens who are disproportionately represented in fatal police shootings.

“That’s not an attack, that’s just data. Let’s fix it,” Reed said.

Previously reported

The shooting of 12 police officers in Dallas, days after white officers killed two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, prompted several demonstrations and protests Friday in and around Atlanta.

Around noon, about 35 people marched downtown, protesting the shootings.

Carrie Choe organized the event through a social media post, to start a conversation about violence.

“Something has to change,” she said. “Today we are marching in protest of violence by police officers and by protesters … more than anything, we are trying to build a positive relationships between us and police.”

The group marched from 10th and Peachtree streets to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The marchers were not part of any official organization, Choe said, “we’re just mad citizens, mad Americans.”

A separate demonstration, organized by the NAACP, was scheduled Friday afternoon at 6 p.m. also at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. A local Black Lives Matter chapter is also planning to participate in that event.

In a statement Friday, the NAACP condemned the violence in Dallas.

“Change must come to policing in America but it cannot and will not come at the end of a barrel of a gun” said Francys Johnson, Georgia NAACP president.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, other city leaders and police officials were scheduled to hold a safety briefing Friday afternoon. Reed is expected to address the discovery of a man found hanged in Piedmont Park on Thursday.

Hundreds of people marched in downtown Atlanta Thursday night to protest the police shootings and also in response to the hanging.

Additional demonstrations are expected throughout the weekend, including a march Saturday morning on Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw and a community forum in DeKalb County with Cedric Alexander, DeKalb’s deputy chief operating officer for public safety.

Staff writer Laura Thompson contributed to this article.

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