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Georgia politicians condemn violent protests, others see 'day of reckoning'

After a peaceful march the Capitol that swelled into the hundreds,  protesters returned to the area around the Centennial Olympic Park and CNN Center where some confronted police, who sprayed some demonstrators with pepper spray.  Later in the evening, protesters began breaking windows at area businesses. (Photo: Alyssa Pointer / alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)
After a peaceful march the Capitol that swelled into the hundreds, protesters returned to the area around the Centennial Olympic Park and CNN Center where some confronted police, who sprayed some demonstrators with pepper spray. Later in the evening, protesters began breaking windows at area businesses. (Photo: Alyssa Pointer / alyssa.pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Some of Georgia's top politicians echoed Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' call for violent protesters to "go home." Others said outraged demonstrators should translate their anger into votes in November.

Bottoms issued an emotional plea to the protesters who defaced the CNN Center, burned Atlanta police cars and ransacked the College Football Hall of Fame to retreat: “This is chaos, and we’re buying into it. This won’t change anything.”

In a statement late Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp said he stood with Bottoms and urged “everyone to go home.” So did the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

“Like you, I am hurting. But I plead with us all to maintain the discipline of peaceful protest. To do otherwise is to put one more weapon in the hands of those who would discredit our protests and dismiss our rightful complaints,” said Warnock, whose church is the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr.

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Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, another candidate for U.S. Senate, said he understood the furor over the death of George Floyd, whose slaying at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests.

“Every Georgian — and every American — should be outraged after witnessing the horrific brutality used against George Floyd,” said Collins. “But more violence will not heal us.”

Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and a potential vice presidential nominee, urged those infuriated by the police brutality to channel their anger to the ballot box.

A police car is on fire Friday evening, May 29, 2020, in the street at CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo:  ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
A police car is on fire Friday evening, May 29, 2020, in the street at CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo: ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

“As long as those who suborn injustice are in charge, nothing changes,” she said. ”So we must vote. Not because voting is the only answer, but it is one that we can’t afford to ignore.”

Some other Democrats had a similar reaction. Sarah Riggs Amico, who is seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue, said the protest is giving voice to “those who have been unseen and unheard.”

“We must press for change - deep systemic change - everywhere from our communities to our schools to our government agencies and elected officials, and we must hold accountable those who turn a blind eye to the injustices that haunt us.”

>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests 

>> FULL TEXT: Read Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' plea for her city

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And former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said it was a “day of reckoning” for white Georgians.

“If you are a white person of good conscience, you must join in this moment,” said Tomlinson, who also seeks to challenge Perdue.

“You must peacefully take to the streets and enthusiastically take to the ballot, and insist on systemic and structural change long overdue.”

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