Despite statements from Atlanta’s police chief and mayor suggesting much of last weekend’s violence was perpetrated by outside groups, figures released Wednesday show the majority of protesters arrested by the city’s police department so far have been from Georgia.
A day later, the GBI put out its own analysis of Fulton County’s protest-related arrests, finding similar results.
Of the 425 protesters arrested by Atlanta police between Friday and Monday, nearly 85% live in the state, arrest records show. Just 51 people, about 12% of those charged, were from elsewhere.
The GBI added that there were a handful of people who were arrested in similar protests and riots in the past, citing two specific cases. Those included a Minnesota man, who agents are working to “confirm his involvement in the Minneapolis riots,” and a Florida resident, who had multiple charges in Missouri during the Ferguson unrest in 2014.
In addition, about 10 protesters were bonded out of jail by an out-of-state individual, which the GBI said suggests “coordination and outside influence.” However, those cases make up a minuscule percentage of all arrests.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets in cities across the nation in recent days, calling for an end to police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
While many of the protests have remained peaceful, some have grown violent at times as groups clash with officers, set fires and loot businesses.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests
Atlanta, a city traditionally known for its peaceful demonstrations, was not exempt from the destruction. Tensions flared Friday evening after what began as a peaceful rally devolved into a night of chaos when a group of protesters torched a police car outside Centennial Olympic Park and others broke into nearby businesses.
That night, police reported break-ins and looting at dozens of shops from downtown Atlanta to Buckhead. By early Saturday, Gov. Brian Kemp had called in members of the Georgia National Guard to help local law enforcement restore order.
During a Saturday news conference announcing a citywide 9 p.m. curfew, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Police Chief Erika Shields suggested much of the destruction from the night before was caused by outsiders with no desire to demonstrate peacefully.
“This was a highly-calculated terrorist organization,” Shields said. “When you come in and your goal is to inflict harm, damage, property damage without any regard to human life, you are a terrorist.
“These were not Atlantans,” she continued. “We knew they were not Atlantans. They were lost when they were in the protest. They didn’t know how to march to the State Capitol. That’s a clue.”
While some of the protesters charged are from other states, four out of five live in metro Atlanta. Among the 425 protesters charged, 141 lived in the city, while 18 were from Marietta, 16 were from Decatur and 13 were from Stone Mountain. The GBI added that the average age among those arrested was 24, with the youngest being 17 and the oldest 69.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, GBI Director Vic Reynolds suggested there are groups that came to Atlanta to cause trouble, though he didn’t mention who those groups are or where they were from.
“Based on the information and intelligence we have, there are individuals here from various groups around the country, a lot of which are bent primarily on destruction and violence,” he said.
Of those arrested between Friday and Monday, the majority of demonstrators — 217 people — were charged with violating the curfew, records show.
Most of the other protesters arrested also face minor charges, which range from disorderly conduct to walking in the roadway and impeding the flow of traffic, according to police. It appears very few people were charged with violent crimes or destroying property.
Of the additional 58 arrests Atlanta police made Tuesday, 53 had Georgia addresses, according to new police data. Police added that only two Georgians were from outside of metro Atlanta.
Another 43 arrests were made in Atlanta on Wednesday, but police have not released their charges or demographics. The GBI’s analysis was based off arrest data between Friday and Monday, and the agency is still working through the arrests from Tuesday and Wednesday.
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