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Protest turns into hours of chaos, violence in Atlanta

Riots have broken out in Atlanta around the CNN Center and on Friday, May 29, 2020.  Protesters spray fire extinquishers at police as they clash at the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Riots have broken out in Atlanta around the CNN Center and on Friday, May 29, 2020. Protesters spray fire extinquishers at police as they clash at the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Protesters made their way from downtown Atlanta and into Buckhead late Friday, damaging businesses, looting and leaving behind a path of destruction.

Atlanta police officers were joined by other metro law enforcement agencies in trying to thwart the protesters. Late Friday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp deployed members of the National Guard to the Lenox area.

What began Friday afternoon as a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned into chaos as marchers returned from the state capital to the CNN Center. Various fires were set downtown and in Buckhead, and early Saturday, law enforcement continued working to restore order.

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>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests 

Minute-by-minute updates:

1:30 a.m.: Atlanta police provided an update on protests in the city, including multiple instances of shots being fired.

“Protesters continue damaging businesses, looting and setting fire to buildings.” Sgt. John Chafee said in an emailed statement. “There has been looting at the College Football Hall of Fame, Phipps Plaza, the Target at 3535 Peachtree Road, the AT&T store on Lenox Road, the FedEx store at 100 Peachtree Street, the Starbucks at 100 Peachtree Street and many other businesses.

“We are grateful for the assistance being provided by multiple local and state law enforcement partners as we work to minimize the damage being caused by these individuals and to restore order in our city.”

1:18 a.m.: One person has been shot in the area of Peachtree and Wall streets, according to Atlanta police. The man was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and was in stable condition.

1:03 a.m.: The fire has been extinguished at Del Frisco's Grille in Buckhead, according to the Fulton County fire department.

 

12:47 a.m.: Tear gas has been dispersed near Lenox Square, where the scene remains chaotic. Several members of the National Guard have arrived to assist with controlling the crowds.

12:42 a.m.: A fire has been reported at Del Frisco's Grille in Buckhead. But fire crews have been unable to get to the fire because of protesters.

12:39 a.m.: Violence continues in Buckhead, where the Maggiano's Little Italy and Corner Bakery restaurants have broken windows.

12:27 a.m.: The Atlanta police department has provided an update on violence in both downtown and Buckhead areas.

“Protesters continue to clash with police, damage and loot businesses and light fires in the area of Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Marietta Street,” Sgt. John Chafee said in an emailed statement. “We have made additional arrests and have had at least one more officer injured in this area. Protestors have also gathered in the area of Peachtree Road and Lenox Road and have begun looting and damaging businesses in the area.

“There have been multiple instances of shots being fired in close proximity to our officers and shots were fired at an officer in a patrol vehicle on Peachtree Road at Lenox Road. We continue our efforts at restoring peace in our city.”

12:24 a.m.: Members of the National Guard have arrived in the Lenox Square area.

12:20 a.m.: Protesters have smashed windows of the Waffle House located in the 300 block of Marietta Street Northwest in Atlanta.

12:11 a.m.: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a State of Emergency for Fulton County and is prepared to deploy at least 500 members of the Georgia National Guard.

 

12:04 a.m.: A rock was thrown through the window of a Channel 2 Action News vehicle near Centennial Olympic Park.

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

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

11:53 p.m.: As many as 20 people were seen stealing items from the Buckhead Target. Officers quickly got the situation under control. A nearby FedEx store was also vandalized.

11:48 p.m.: The Fulton County Sheriff's Office says its entire law enforcement division has been deployed to the Lenox area. Two jail buses have also been brought downtown to assist with transporting those arrested.

11:44 p.m.: Protesters have arrived at the Target in Buckhead and were breaking into the store.

11:35 p.m.: Windows were broken at an AT&T store near Lenox Square.

11:31 p.m.: Another fire has been set at Centennial Olympic Park.

11:24 p.m.: STATS Brew Pub, located on Marietta Street, has been heavily damaged by protesters.

11:15 p.m.: Officers have also blocked the parking lot of Phipps Plaza in Buckhead.

11:10 p.m.: Atlanta officers are attempting to block the entrances to the parking lots around the mall. Other law enforcement agencies were also present. Cars were circling the area and honking horns.

11:00 p.m.: Protesters have arrived at Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead.

10:50 p.m.: Clayton County police vehicles arrived in the area to assist Atlanta police.

10:40 p.m.: Atlanta Police have provided an update, saying they are working with multiple local and state law enforcemnet partners to restore order in the city.

Protestors have caused extensive damage to patrol vehicles and buildings in the area of Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Marietta Street and have looted several businesses in the same area. Also, they have started several small fires, including setting fire to an APD patrol vehicle, according to APD.

May 29, 2020 -  Atlanta -  After a peaceful march the Georgia State Capitol that swelled into the hundreds,  protestors returned to the area around the Centennial Olympic Park and CNN center where some confronted police, who sprayed some demonstrators with pepper spray.  They carried signs and chanted their messages of outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.     Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
May 29, 2020 - Atlanta - After a peaceful march the Georgia State Capitol that swelled into the hundreds, protestors returned to the area around the Centennial Olympic Park and CNN center where some confronted police, who sprayed some demonstrators with pepper spray. They carried signs and chanted their messages of outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Officers have issued disbursement orders and deployed tear gas in an effort to break up the protests. However, officers continue to endure nearly constant assault, including protestors shooting BB guns at them, throwing bricks, bottles, rocks and knives at them as they continue their efforts to protect property and lives.

At least three officers have been injured in the confrontation and multiple arrests have been made.

10:20 p.m.: A large fire is burning just outside Centennial Olympic Park just across from the College Football Hall of Fame. A fire truck is on the scene. At least two cars appear to be on fire.

Cars burn outside Centennial Olympic Park Friday night
Cars burn outside Centennial Olympic Park Friday night

10:15 p.m.: 

Atlanta officials and Gov. Brian Kemp echo Mayor Bottoms’ plea for protesters

10:05 p.m.: Two vehicles were on fire near Centennial Olympic Park. Hundreds of people were still on the streets.

9:55 p.m.: Windows have been broken at the College Football Hall of Fame. Dozens of people were seen running in and grabbing items.

Protesters outside the College Football Hall of Fame Friday night. The HOF was defaced as crowds broke windows and went inside and took items.
Protesters outside the College Football Hall of Fame Friday night. The HOF was defaced as crowds broke windows and went inside and took items.

Credit: Ben@bengray.com

Credit: Ben@bengray.com

REALTED | Protesters damage College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta

9:50 p.m.: A car was set on fire on Park Avenue. A woman was also hit by a car on Marietta Street, but her injuries did not appear to be serious.

9:30 p.m: Police have deployed tear gas in attempts to disperse the crowds.

Tear gas is deployed to disperse the crowds in downtown Atlanta Friday night.
Tear gas is deployed to disperse the crowds in downtown Atlanta Friday night.

9:25 p.m.: As the Atlanta mayor, police chief and other city leaders held a news conference, protestors continued to congregate downtown, some destroying property. Rocks were also thrown through windows of the Omni Hotel Friday night.

9:15 p.m.: Rappers Clifford "T.I."Harris and Killer Mike also addressed the media at the news conference.

“It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy,” said a tearful Killer Mike, 45, whose real name is Michael Render. “It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. Now is the time to plot, plan, strategize and organize. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth.”

Rapper Killer Mike speaks Friday night during a news conference with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Rapper Killer Mike speaks Friday night during a news conference with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

9:04 p.m.: Mayor Bottoms has started the news conference with an impassioned plea for protesters.

“Above everything else I am a mother. When I saw the murder of George Floyd I hurt like a mother would hurt. You’re not going to out concern me and out care me about where we are in America. I pray over my children each and every day.

What I see happening is not Atlanta. This not a protest ... this is chaos, a protest has purpose,” Mayor Bottoms said.

Mayor Bottoms holds a press conference Friday night to address the chaotic protests.
Mayor Bottoms holds a press conference Friday night to address the chaotic protests.

“When you burn down this city you’re burning down our community ... you are disgracing our city, you are disgracing the life of George Floyd and the life of every other person who has been killd in this country. We’re better than this.”

“Go home,” she pleaded. “Go home.

9 p.m.: Police again order the crowd to disperse as more windows at the CNN Center are broken. Mayor Bottoms and APD Chief Shields still expected to speak at a news conference.

8:35 p.m.: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and APD Chief Erika Shields are expected to speak momentarily from police headquarters. An AJC reporter is there.

8:29 p.m.: Looters were seen entering the CNN Center and the McCormick & Schmick's restaurant.

 

8:25 p.m.: In an interview with Channel 2 Action News, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young said, "I'm thinking I want to cry. This was a good demonstration that went bad ... in the last half hour it's disintegrated."

Hope for peaceful ending

Shortly before 8 p.m., Atlanta Police say they are attempting to allow the protesters to continue with a peaceful demonstration.

“Officers have been subjected to water bottles, eggs and other items being thrown at them. However we remain hopeful this activity will cease and there will be no need for further arrests or clashes with protesters,” a department spokesman told the AJC.

Georgia World Congress Center Police Chief Paul Guerrucci told Channel 2 Action News he supports "allowing people to voice their opinions, their feelings, their concerns - peacefully. People have the right to have answers. At the end of the day we're all in this together. Reform is necessary. We support that and will continue in that effort."
His agency works closely with APD and Chief Erika Shields.
"She's doing a tremendous job under the circumstances, and we're on the same page."

Outside CNN center 

As the demonstration continued, protestors began throwing water bottles at a person in the crowd who tried to calm the situation by telling those gathered that police were not at fault, according to AJC reporters who are outside the CNN Center following the crowd.

The CNN Center and its restaurants are closed, but some of the windows have been broken or are cracked.

Mayor Bottoms told Channel 2, "I understand the frustration. This is a very scary and frustrating time in America. This is a very uncertain time for all of us. We started a movement here that changed the globe, and it was a nonviolent movement."
She asked protestors to respect that legacy.
"There are some people who simply want to be disruptors and it's unfortunate. The vast majority of people out there are out there for the right reasons. I just ask people to respect the legacy of who we are, and the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."

Scene outside the CNN Center 
Scene outside the CNN Center 

Credit: Ben@bengray.com

Credit: Ben@bengray.com


She noted that half of the businesses in Atlanta are owned by women and minorities and said unruly protests aren't in keeping with Atlanta's values. 
"As a city we are better than this. We know how to effectuate change. We know what a successful protest looks like. We don't want this death or any other death to get lost in violence and mayhem. What we want is a lasting change. We don't want a sensational moment on television."

In an interview with Channel 2 Action News, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said, "People are upset. They’re angry, they’re scared. I get it. They want to be heard, and I think they have a right to be heard."

As tensions mounted outside the CNN center around 7 p.m., some in the large crowd began defacing the CNN sign. Police have repeatedly asked the crowd to disperse.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Gov. Brian Kemp retweeted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ statement with a message encouraging protestors to exercise their Constitutional rights safely.

In her statement, Bottoms said people are expected to exercise their rights to protest and asked them to “remember Atlanta’s legacy of peaceful protest leading to progress.”

By later Friday afternoon, the event turned chaotic outside the CNN Center, where some of the protesters were seen in scuffles with officers. Pepper spray was deployed and some in the crowd began to disperse.

Shortly before 6 p.m., Atlanta officers were urging crowds to disperse and refrain from blocking streets.

Floyd died while in police custody last week, and video of the incident sparked a national outcry. Friday afternoon, Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who has been implicated in Floyd's death, was taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to reports.

‘No justice, no peace’

They carried signs and chanted their messages of outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. By the time the crowd had made the 2.5-mile trek from Centennial Olympic Park to the state capitol, hundreds had joined in.

The protest Friday afternoon through downtown Atlanta started out mostly peaceful, but the message was strong.

The participants, most clad in masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 embarked from Centennial Olympic Park at 3:50 pm on their way to the capital to protest the killing of George Floyd. They chanted “no justice, no peace,” but when a motorcycle battalion of police officers road by, they switched to “Don’t Shoot.”

Lamont Wilson, 34, asks the question: “Am I next,” during the rally.

 

“I’ve had moments where I did fear for my life and feared for my safety,” Wilson said from his road bike. “But I fear for the young brothers. We focus on the killings but there is so much injustice that comes before that too.”

The crowd was notably diverse, from a black woman doing the full march in a motorized wheel chair to a middle-aged white man carrying a sign reading, “I AM A THUG,” to a young Hispanic man blasting KRS-ONE’s “Sound of Da Police,” from a speaker in his pocket.

 

Atlanta’s top cop responds

Atlanta’s police chief said the Minneapolis officers involved in the death of Floyd failed both as “cops and human beings.”

In a two-minute video posted on the department’s social media pages, Chief Erika Shields said the behavior is not indicative of the entire law enforcement community.

“How disconnected does law enforcement have to be for a man to be suffocated by a cop in broad daylight, knowing the cameras are rolling with fellow officers stand around watching?” Shields said. “There’s not an answer to this because it’s not reasonable in any sense of the word.”

 

Shields’ comments came Thursday as riots continued in Minneapolis protesting Floyd’s death.

Vice President Pence addresses shooting

At a stop at the Unity National Bank in Atlanta, a minority owned bank, Vice President Mike Pence briefly addressed the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia.

“Our prayers are with George Floyd’s family. Our prayers are also with the family of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

“We have no tolerance for racism in America. We have no tolerance for violence inspired by racism. And as President Trump said, justice will be served.”

He added: “We also believe in law and order in this country. We condemn violence against property or persons. We will also always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard.”

— Greg Bluestein

— Please return to ajc.com for updates as the march gets under way.