UPDATE: 71 arrested during night of violent protests in Atlanta

Protesters spray fire extinguishers at police as they clash Friday evening  at the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park.
Protesters spray fire extinguishers at police as they clash Friday evening at the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park.

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

Atlanta police arrested 71 people overnight after a protest downtown turned violent, leading to fires and looting across the city.

At least one demonstrator was shot, authorities said, though he is expected to survive.

Widespread looting was reported at shops and restaurants downtown and in Buckhead shortly after Georgia State Patrol troopers dispersed protesters gathered outside Centennial Olympic Park with what appeared to be tear gas.

ExploreComplete coverage: Atlanta protests

Atlanta police said looters then converged on the College Football Hall of Fame, Phipps Plaza and a nearby Target on Peachtree Road. A local FedEx, a Starbucks and an AT&T store were also vandalized, as were dozens of smaller business, authorities said.

Protesters damaged the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Protesters damaged the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

Credit: Ben Gray/Special

Credit: Ben Gray/Special

By morning, 20 police vehicles were damaged and two were completely destroyed, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said.

RELATED: Protesters damage College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta

At least three Buckhead jewelry stores were also broken into, though it’s unclear what, if anything, was stolen.

ALSO: Buckhead stores, restaurants clean up after a night of riots and looting

“What we saw overnight was not a protest, and it was not Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement. “We as a people are strongest when we use our voices to heal our city instead of using our hands to tear it down ... What started out as a peaceful demonstration quickly turned into mayhem and unnecessary destruction, and ultimately an assault on businesses that are already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Stephen Davis cleans up at Relax the Back in Buckhead after looters damaged the store's front window.
Stephen Davis cleans up at Relax the Back in Buckhead after looters damaged the store's front window.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/ Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin/ Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Three officers suffered minor injuries in scuffles with demonstrators, Atlanta police said. One was pushed down with when a large crowd attempted to surround a police vehicle. The other two were injured by flying debris.

“Officers were subjected for hours to objects thrown at them, including water bottles, bullets, eggs, rocks, fireworks and knives,” Campos said.

A fourth officer was shot at while driving through Buckhead early Saturday, but was not injured, according to police.

By the end of the night, 71 demonstrators were arrested, authorities said. Their names and specific charges have not been released.

Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields praised her officers Saturday afternoon as law enforcement agencies across metro Atlanta braced for another round of protests.

“I’m incredibly proud of our officers for showing professionalism and restraint, allowing protesters to voice their valid concerns,” Shields said in a statement. “We were patient. But we will not allow these protests to devolve into the destruction of property or place the safety or our officers in jeopardy.”

Additional arrests are expected in connection with Friday’s events, and Atlanta are still working to determine the exact number of businesses that were looted, burglarized or damaged.

In other news: 

Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach says people are grabbing trash bags and doing what they can to help.