Here is the text of a briefing by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Saturday after violence erupted during a protest in Downtown Atlanta.
First I want to thank Chief [Darin] Schierbaum for his great leadership today and the men and women of the Atlanta Police Department, The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, our 911 operators, Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, FBI, our state and federal partners as well as our partners in Fulton County, DeKalb County, MARTA and others.
Atlanta is safe, and our police officers have resolved the disruptions downtown from this evening. Thanks to the quick action of our public safety officials working together, order has been restored in a swift manner.
The city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department will not tolerate this, and we continue to protect the right to peacefully protest. We will not tolerate violence or property destruction. The Atlanta Police Department and our law enforcement partners are fully engaged and have the resources to protect our residents, our visitors and our businesses in this city.
Again, I want to thank Atlanta’s firefighters, our police officers, our 911 operators, EMS and everyone else who has helped to keep order in our city.
My message is simple to those who seek to continue this type of criminal behavior: We will find you and we will arrest you and you will be held accountable. We have arrested several of them this evening, and Chief Schierbaum will give you the details on that. Many of them don’t even live in Atlanta or in the state of Georgia and they don’t represent the voices of Atlantans. And some of them were found with explosives on them. You heard that correctly — explosives — and that has led to a police officer’s car being set on fire. And other destruction has occurred.
So make no mistake about it. These individuals meant harm to people and to property.
And so to the people of Atlanta, I have said from the beginning of my administration that keeping our city streets safe is my top priority, and we will continue to leverage all of the city’s resources to make that happen. And so tonight you saw good swift police work in collaboration with a lot of our regional and state partners.
Update from Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum:
I again want to start by acknowledging the support that we have here at the podium from the Georgia State Patrol and [Fulton County] Sheriff [Patrick] Labat and the key role they played this evening in restoring order to our city.
This department is equally committed to two things: We will protect the First Amendment rights of every citizen, and we will stop lawlessness wherever it may occur in Atlanta. We were prepared tonight for both eventualities.
A protest was being held earlier tonight about 5 o’clock in the Underground [Atlanta] area of the city. That group started marching north on Peachtree Street in a peaceful manner, and this department was deployed to protect that right of protest.
However, when that group arrived at the intersection of Ellis Street and Peachtree Street, a group inside that marching crowd decided to start committing illegal acts, which included the breaking of windows and also attacking police cruisers that were in the area. That immediately changed the focus of this police department.
And those that were in the area saw a rapid response of Atlanta police officers, Georgia State Patrolmen and sheriff’s deputies. And within two blocks the illegal activity had been stopped and we had made arrests of six individuals that chose to take the First Amendment as a shield of illegal activity. And we stopped the protesters that acted illegally, had them in custody and had order restored on Peachtree Street and in the Downtown area.
There are three businesses that received damages to their windows and the investigation is continuing to determine who caused that, and if there is someone who committed a criminal act that we currently do not have in custody, we’re using all of our investigative resources to ensure that we identify them and we bring them to justice.
The mayor has already mentioned that we have a number of federal partners who are here with us in the building, and that is the ATF, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We also have the Attorney General’s office of the state of Georgia as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Because even though we are just a few hours into this investigation, we already know that we have already arrested actors who have been involved in other criminal activity and are involved in a manner to deter the building of the Atlanta public safety training center.
Every citizen of this city should know that where criminals should arrive inside of Atlanta, Georgia, they will be met by their police department, and they will be met by the collaboration that stands behind them. And anyone that attempts to break the peace and security of Atlanta, Georgia, will be held accountable. And we will protect the First Amendment for everyone that chooses to peacefully do so. Our department is equally committed to both.
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