Atlanta protests: Demonstrators defy Atlanta curfew

May 30, 2020 - Atlanta - Protesters attacking Police Zone 5 downtown. Small groups of people roam the streets after curfew Saturday, some vandalizing property, as protests began for a second day. Protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody spread around the United States on Saturday, as his case renewed anger about others involving African Americans, police and race relations.

May 30, 2020 - Atlanta - Protesters attacking Police Zone 5 downtown. Small groups of people roam the streets after curfew Saturday, some vandalizing property, as protests began for a second day. Protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody spread around the United States on Saturday, as his case renewed anger about others involving African Americans, police and race relations.

A second day of protests Saturday began with a crowd outside the Governor’s Mansion and grew to include demonstrations in downtown Atlanta. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms implemented a curfew for the city following a night of chaotic protests Friday that led to vandalism and looting in parts of downtown Atlanta and Buckhead.

“There will be no lawlessness,” Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said during a news conference Saturday evening. The department was caught off balance once, she said. “It’s not going to happen twice.”

Protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody spread around the United States on Saturday, as his case renewed anger about others involving African Americans, police and race relations.

Minute-by-minute updates:

12:15 a.m.: The remaining groups of people still out in downtown Atlanta continued to thin as police made more arrests and others left the area.

RELATED | Protests spread to metro Atlanta, Gainesville Saturday night

12 a.m.: Several people were detained by police around midnight, three hours after Atlanta's curfew went into effect.

Police were detaining people out in downtown Atlanta after the city's 9 p.m. Saturday, May 30, 2020 curfew. 

icon to expand image

11:30 p.m.: Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order authorizing up to 3,000 National Guard troops to work statewide in advance of protests planned Sunday in Savannah and elsewhere.

Outside Atlanta, demonstrators were holding a rally in Gainesville that had thus far remained peaceful Saturday night, Channel 2 reported.

11:15 p.m.: In its latest update, Atlanta PD reports 51 arrests as of 10:50 p.m. There are still a large number of protesters in the city with most issues in the area of Marietta Street and Andrew Young International Boulevard in Downtown. 

READ | After curfew, tensions rise in downtown Atlanta, officer injured

Protestors have also damaged at least one patrol vehicle, and broke out windows of APD’s Zone 5 precinct on Ted Turner Drive Downtown, the Dunkin Donuts at Luckie Street and Forsyth Street and other Downtown businesses. Officers are also receiving reports of armed protestors in these groups, APD said.

BREAKING Atlanta officer seriously injured when hit by ATV

11:05 p.m.: Arthur Harden works security at a building on John Wesley Dodd Avenue. Some protesters had smashed the windows out.

Arthur Harden works security at a building where protesters smashed the windows out on John Wesley Dodd Avenue. DAVID WICKERT / AJC

icon to expand image

He shouted at marchers as they passed by. “This is a black-owned business!” he said. “What did this building do to you?” It did little good. While he watched, someone spray-painted an expletive on the building.

10:55 p.m.: The injured police officer appears to have been hit around 10:30 p.m. by someone riding an ATV around Ted Turner Drive, Atlanta Police told an AJC reporter. The officer sustained significant injuries and has been transported to Grady Hospital in stable condition. The rider suffered minor injuries, has been taken into custody and is also being taken to the hospital.

10:32 p.m.: A police officer had been injured Saturday night, according to Channel 2 Action News. The officer was reportedly hit by an ATV along Marietta St. That area around Ted Turner Dr. was shut down Saturday night.

Protesters also continued to defy Atlanta’s 9 p.m. curfew Saturday night as groups around downtown vandalized buildings, broke windows and set off fireworks.

10:05 p.m.: Downtown, various crowds are moving around in small groups smashing windows, including at the American Cancer Society building and at the Peachtree Center MARTA station. Police sirens can be heard and a low-flying helicopter can be heard overhead.

Windows were smashed at the Peachtree Center MARTA station Saturday, May 30, 2020.

icon to expand image

9:45 p.m.: Around Phipps Plaza where crowds tried to break into luxury retailers Friday night, things were very different a day later. Law enforcement was on the scene around Phipps and elsewhere near Buckhead's large retail areas where things were quiet Saturday night.

9:40 p.m: Despite the 9 p.m. curfew, demonstrators still milled about downtown Saturday night, including some near the SkyView ferris wheel. Some were shooting fireworks near the intersection of Andrew Young International Blvd. and Williams St.

9:30 p.m: At Sugarloaf Mills in Lawrenceville, the crowds began to disperse just before 9:30 p.m. said Cpl. Collin Flynn, public information officer for the Gwinnett County Police Department. He said officers will continue to monitor the crowds, but they seem to be leaving the area.
"Hopefully, things have died down here tonight," he said.
Flynn said protesters made one attempt to walk on to I-85, but turned away after officers said they would not allow them to succeed. Four people have been arrested at the protests in Gwinnett.
Flynn said he would not have any more information Saturday about a video that showed a person who appeared to be a Gwinnett County officer punching a protester in the face as the protester was being detained. Earlier, he said he did not know if the officer was still at the scene. There were more than 50 officers at the mall, including from the police and sheriff's department and some local police departments.
"We're going to have to go back and investigate," Flynn said.

8:55 p.m.: Shortly before 9 p.m. several demonstrators had walked from downtown near Centennial Olympic Park to the Martin Luther King Center historic site. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a 9 p.m. curfew for the city Saturday night extending through sunrise Sunday.

8:50 p.m: In Gwinnett County, spokesman Collin Flynn said police have arrested four people protesting near the Sugarloaf Mills Mall in Lawrenceville. One of the people arrested was seen in a video clip posted on social media, where he was being punched in the face by an officer.

Flynn said he had only seen the video once, but believed the person in the video was a Gwinnett County officer. Shortly after 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Flynn said he didn’t know the officer’s name or whether he was still on the scene. The video was originally posted shortly after 6 p.m.

In a statement, Flynn said the situation at the mall was fluid and officers are dealing with rapidly changing encounters. He said the department takes all use of force incidents seriously.

“Once the situation has concluded we will address any force used and an investigation will be completed with transparent results to the public,” he said.

Flynn said between 100 and 150 protestors are in the area of the mall, and most are protesting peacefully. He said police encouraged them to do so.

Still, there has been some property damage – the windshield of a police car was smashed – and Flynn said there had been “chatter” about protestors trying to get on I-85.

“We will not allow them to get on the Interstate,” he said. “We will block all access.”

Flynn said the likelihood of protestors or drivers getting hurt if people were able to access the highway was “extremely high.”

Officers are also stationed at the Mall of Georgia, but the protests seem to be centered at Sugarloaf Mills.

In an interview on WSB Radio's Mark Arum show Saturday night, Gov. Brian Kemp said officials with several state agencies were at the state operations center tonight, including the Georgia National Guard, Department of Juvenile Justice and the GBI.

“ And all of those folks have POST-certified law enforcement tactical teams and other resources that we’re deploying tonight to support the mayor and the Atlanta Police Department to make sure we don’t have what happened last night happen again tonight.”

Kemp said the problems on Friday began “when these folks who have an alternative agenda embedded themselves with the peaceful protesters and started setting things on fire, putting our first reponders … in harm’s way and doing dangerous things.” He added, “I’ve seen some shocking things that let you know this is uncalled for, which is why we have a zero [tolerance] policy tonight.”

READ | Gov. Kemp says says authorities won't 'back down' as new protests loom

Kemp said his message to those who cause trouble is “they need to go home and they need to go home now, because they’re going to have a bad night tonight if they try to do what was happening last night.”

Kemp said law enforcement outside Atlanta are “sticking close to home because we do have reports of other protests planned, and as long as those are peaceful and done the right way, we’ll continue to support those individuals.”

He said the he has talked to the mayor of Savannah about possible protests on Sunday. “We have resources that we’re working on now to deploy to Savannah tomorrow,” Kemp said.

8:35 p.m.: The crowd of demonstrators outside the Governor's Mansion has left mansion and was walking along Arden Road. A few residents stood in driveways to watch the procession go by. Some protesters have left, but a larger group remains.

In Dunwoody, city officials were asking residents to remain home Saturday night.

8:20 p.m.: MARTA is suspending all service at 9 p.m. Saturday

8 p.m.: Demonstrators remain outside the Governor's Mansion. At one point they took up both lanes of West Paces Ferry chanting, "We believe in justice. We believe in love," as they all knelt in front of police cars. 

7:45 p.m.: Outside Atlanta, Sugarloaf Mills Mall in Gwinnett County closed early Saturday following the actions of other shopping centers, businesses and restaurants across the metro area citing safety concerns.

In downtown Atlanta, police are arresting protesters blocking streets.

Demonstrators arrested for blocking streets in downtown Atlanta Saturday, May 30, 2020. DAVID WICKERT / AJC

icon to expand image

7:35 p.m: Several state agencies are using Lenox Square as a staging area, with fleets of National Guard, State Patrol, game warden and Department of Corrections vehicles amassing in the parking lot. The Department of Corrections has brought its riot squad

State agencies use Lenox Square as a staging area Saturday evening May 30, 2020. JOHNNY EDWARDS / AJC

icon to expand image

State agencies use Lenox Square as a staging area Saturday evening May 30, 2020. 

icon to expand image

7:20 p.m.: Things are escalating outside the mansion. West Paces Ferry is now closed to traffic, police in riot gear have come out from behind a fence and there's been at least one skirmish between demonstrators and police. Protesters, numbering hundreds and lined up across the street from the mansion, are chanting "don't shoot."

Protestors outside the Governor's Mansion on Saturday, May 30, 2020. 

icon to expand image

7:10 p.m.: Atlanta police are writing tickets and placing them on cars lining the side street near the Governor's Mansion.

Protesters outside the mansion are starting to walk to their cars after a warning that cars are being towed on a side street.

“It’s a good way to get it to disperse, assholes,” said one protester as she headed to her car. “We’ll just go around the block.”

Police writing tickets for cars lining side streets near the Governor's Mansion on Saturday, May 30, 2020. VANESSA MCCRAY / AJC

icon to expand image

A protester who just parked on Arden Road near the mansion watched as a police officer made his way down the street writing tickets. The man, who gave his name only as XP Dinero, said it was a way to try to squash protests and said he’ll move his car and come back via Uber.

A resident who has lived in this neighborhood for two decades said she’s never seen police write tickets on this street. “I want everyone to feel welcome,” she said

7 p.m.: Police have taken several protesters from the street in downtown Atlanta. Some protesters have thrown water bottles at the police. Police waded into the crowd and arrested several people who appeared to be throwing bottles of water.

Police arrested several people who appeared to be throwing bottles of water in downtown Atlanta Saturday, May 30. 2020. 

icon to expand image

When police hemmed them in, the protesters marched down the street - some in the middle of the street - and looped back around to Centennial Olympic Park. When they returned to the park, protesters shouted from the corners while dozens of officers lined up in the street.

6:45 p.m: Protesters were on the move in Centennial Olympic Park walking around and through the park.

Barbara Kellie of Lilburn started protesting at 3 p.m. at the Georgia State Capitol and marched to the park. She carried a sign bearing the names of black men who died violently, including George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

“There should be no justification for murder like this,” she said.

Barbara Kellie of Lilburn joined demonstrators downtown Saturday, May 30, 2020.

icon to expand image

Outside the city, Sandy Springs Police advised residents through Twitter, Saturday, to stay home due to a group of protesters gathering in the city.

Avalon shops in Alpharetta closed early Saturday, according to Police Chief John Robison in a social media post. The shopping center’s management was concerned about rumors across social media that “violent protests and looting may be coming to Alpharetta tonight," he said.

Robison said the police department remains in contact and updated by other public safety agencies across metro Atlanta.

6:30 p.m.: The first arrest has been made in the crowd demonstrating outside the Governor's Mansion.

During the press conference with Mayor Bottoms, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields discussed Friday’s protests:

“Yesterday we anticipated we would have a protest of some sort in light of the goings on in Minneapolis. No one in law enforcement who is of sound mind supports the behavior. It was a murder.

“Our posture in Atlanta is one of tolerance. It’s the birthplace of civil rights. We accommodate the folks. We know we’re going to get yelled at. We know we’re going to get spit on. That’s OK. That was our posture as we went into last night’s event.”

She said the destructive looters weren’t the original demonstrators. A clue, she said, was some of the bad actors didn’t seem to know how to get around Atlanta.

“They were not here to protest. They were here to destroy Atlanta.”

By the time APD realized what danger they were in, it was too late to crack down. “We had to go to a position of holding the line and getting enough resources in that we could recover safely. It became apparent to me that my officers were in extreme harm. My officers were in a powder keg.”

By the time things moved to Buckhead, she said the APD was dealing with “a highly calculated terrorist organization.”

“I really was afraid I was going to have an officer shot and killed,” she said.

“There will be no lawlessness.” The department was caught off balance once, she said. “It’s not going to happen twice.”

6:20 p.m.: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is scheduled to hold a press conference holding a press conference this afternoon. A statement from the Mayor's office Mayor Bottoms had signed an executive order setting up a curfew in Atlanta.

“I ask you to please, if at all possible, find yourselves in a safe place, in your home, this evening,” Mayor Bottoms said in announcing the curfew Saturday evening. “Please know where your children are this evening. We do not want to have to arrest your children. We do not want to have to detain anyone, but we will maintain order in the streets of Atlanta this evening.”

About 100 people were gathered outside the governor’s mansion Saturday afternoon. The 5 p.m. rally was the first of the day as metro Atlanta began a second day of demonstrations.

Throughout the day Saturday Georgia officials prepared to prevent another evening of the violent demonstrations that had taken place the night before in downtown Atlanta and Buckhead.

Friday's protests left several businesses and buildings vandalized, including the CNN Center and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Outside the Governor’s Mansion Saturday, a few vehicles could be seen far behind the gate along with state troopers patrolling the grounds.

Demonstrators outside the Governor's Mansion Saturday evening May 30, 2020. 

icon to expand image

About the same time, another crowd of about 200 people had gathered Saturday evening outside Centennial Olymic Park, close to where Friday’s protest began.

Friday afternoon crowds gathered at the park for a peacful protest over the death of Georgia Floyd in Minneapolis. The protest turned chaotic as marchers returned from the state Capitol to the CNN Center, with unrest continuing throughout the night.

On Saturday, Brandon Bell of Atlanta joined more than 200 protesters outside Centennial Olympic Park before 6 p.m. he carried a sign that declared "white silence is the accomplice of evil."
"African Americans can't just do it by ourselves," Bell said. "I know all white people aren't racist. But we need white people to speak up. It's time for systematic change."
Michelle Caruso and Jeremiah Long of Atlanta brought a sign that called on police to "protect and serve all brothers and sisters." Caruso said the sign reflected her Christian faith.
Caruso said she has family members in Massachusetts who are police.
"I also appreciate the ones who are out here protecting us and keeping things peaceful," she said.
The crowd joined in chants of "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace" while police watched and directed traffic.

Elsewhere around the metro area, talk on social media of possible protests in areas including Camp Creek prompted businesses to close, some posting signs asking crowds not to vandalize their shops.