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Protests ripple across the Atlanta region for fourth straight day

Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of Atlanta City Hall Monday for a fourth day of protests across the region. This group marched from City Hall to the Atlanta City Detention Center and back to City Hall. Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com
Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of Atlanta City Hall Monday for a fourth day of protests across the region. This group marched from City Hall to the Atlanta City Detention Center and back to City Hall. Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Hundreds arrested, curfews announced, damage estimates coming in

Protests convulsed the Atlanta region Monday for the fourth consecutive day as President Donald Trump threatened sending U.S. troops to combat what he called “acts of domestic terror” and as his Democratic rival — Joe Biden — praised Atlanta’s response to the crisis.

Demonstrators converged on downtown Atlanta, across from the state Capitol and in Lawrenceville and Marietta, waving signs, chanting slogans, decrying police brutality and calling for state hate crime legislation.

The protests — coming amid the lingering coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans and wrecked the nation’s economy — were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Two autopsies released Monday say his death was a homicide, though they differed on the causes.

“We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. We have to make our voices heard. And don’t let them believe this will be over in an hour,” Lawrenceville resident Andrew Brown, an African-American father who is afraid for the safety of his three sons, announced over a megaphone to fellow demonstrators in the Gwinnett County city. “We don’t want no violence. We don’t want this to get carried away. But we need to let them know we’re here and we’re here to stay.”

Lawrenceville joined Atlanta Monday in announcing a 9 p.m. curfew. Meanwhile, Atlanta police confirmed they had made 298 arrests connected to the protests since Friday, with more than half of them – 157 — happening on Saturday. About 55 were arrested Monday for being in the roadway in downtown Atlanta, Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Twitter.

“I would hope that you remain peaceful and non-violent like you always have,” Gerald Griggs, second vice president of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP, told fellow protesters in Atlanta before turning his attention to state and local lawmakers, “but I am going to tell you this, if y’all don’t pass comprehensive police reform, if y’all don’t pass comprehensive civil rights legislation in the birth place of civil rights, if y’all don’t lock these cops up, then there’s only one message we are going to deliver: No justice! No peace!”

Damage estimates from the demonstrations have started trickling in. So far, Buckhead has sustained an estimated $10 million to $15 million in property damage, according to the community group Buckhead Coalition. An estimate for downtown was not available Monday afternoon.

Atlanta’s response to the protests – and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ passionate denunciation of violence – continued to attract national attention. Biden commended Bottoms’ “incredible” reaction to the chaos that gripped downtown Atlanta over the weekend, singling her out during an online forum with other mayors that stoked more talk that she could be his pick as a running mate.

“I’ve watched you like millions and millions of Americans have on television of late. Your passion, your composure, your balance has been really incredible,” Biden said.

The former vice president’s comments came as national media outlets reported Trump berated governors for “weak” leadership on a conference call and urged them to “get much tougher” on protests paralyzing cities. He also floated the idea of mobilizing military forces to help keep the peace.

“To see the president of the United States say that he’s going to send the military into our communities but hasn’t mentioned sending a single dime of support into our communities speaks to where we are in America,” Bottoms said.

Kemp, who was on that call with Trump, didn’t comment about the president’s remarks. But earlier he credited a heavy police presence that swarmed downtown Atlanta for a “really good night” in thwarting violence.

Although he said it “got pretty hairy” with several tense confrontations, he praised authorities for defusing the situation. Officers shot tear gas to scatter crowds and detained demonstrators who defied the 9 p.m. curfew.

Kemp also expressed concern the protests have shifted attention away from the state’s approach to battling the coronavirus. On Monday, new rules went into effect that allow bars and nightclubs to reopen if they follow safety guidelines.

“I hope the break in the news coverage and the focus on the protests don’t disrupt people remembering we still need to practice social distancing, good hand sanitation practices,” he told Channel 2 Action News.

On Monday, Chelsia and Terry Moore of Atlanta brought their 13-year-old twins Alana and Jordan to the protest at Centennial Olympic Park. They wanted their children to see their beliefs put into action, but Chelsia wasn’t optimistic about the outcome in Minneapolis. She carried a homemade neon green sign that said: “To think at 1st we were just asking for civil rights. Just civil.”

“It’s going to get worse because the cops are probably going to be acquitted,” she said, “or they won’t get a serious enough sentence and then the city will really burn.”

In a peaceful but tense moment, protesters surrounded two Georgia State Patrol cars and blocked Spring Street and North Avenue near the iconic Varsity restaurant. Asante Hill of Atlanta led chants of “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name, George Floyd.”

“When my grandchildren and my children ask me where I was and what I said and what I did,” he said, “I want the answer to be right here.”

AJC staff writers Amanda Coyne, Bo Emerson, Tyler Estep, Arielle Kass, Andy Peters, Chelsea Prince and Eric Stirgus contributed to this article.