Thousands march as protests continue for 10th day across metro Atlanta

A protest group calling themselves the Tiny Activists marched to the Jackson Street bridge to lay flowers as demonstrations continued in metro Atlanta Sunday. Protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody continued around the United States, as his case renewed anger about others involving African Americans, police and race relations. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A protest group calling themselves the Tiny Activists marched to the Jackson Street bridge to lay flowers as demonstrations continued in metro Atlanta Sunday. Protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody continued around the United States, as his case renewed anger about others involving African Americans, police and race relations. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Thousands of demonstrators joined marches across metro Atlanta for the tenth day in a row, protesting police brutality and racial injustice in a public outcry that shows no signs of letting up.

In the city of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms again canceled an overnight curfew that had been slated to start at 8 p.m., after doing so the night before. Bottoms instituted curfews after the first night of demonstrations turned violent on May 29, and took a gamble in rescinding the lockdown for the first time Saturday night.

But demonstrators stayed peaceful Saturday, and again Sunday as dusk approached.

President Donald Trump and many on the right pressured mayors and governors to crack down on demonstrators, who have taken to streets across the country since the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Bottoms and other mayors said Trump's words only worsened the situation.

On Sunday, some thanked Bottoms for de-escalating the situation and said she made the right call. Others said she shouldn’t have instituted the curfew.

“Imposing a curfew sent a message that silenced the voice of the people, and I’m glad the mayor corrected course to listen to Atlantans calling for change,” said State Sen. Nikema Williams, who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia and represents part of Atlanta. “This is only a first step — now it’s time for Atlanta, Georgia and the rest of the country to take real action to end the police brutality that disproportionately plagues black people and put our community first.”

» RELATED: Photos from 10th day of protests

State Rep. David Dreyer, a Democrat from Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood, said the mayor made the right decision.

“People want their voices heard, and I appreciate the mayor making their voices heard,” he said. “It’s what the moment calls for. She looked at it with an open mind and open heart.

“I’m still concerned about the militarization of the response,” Dreyer said.

A Bottoms spokesman did not respond to a request for an interview or comment.

Protesters gather for a moment of silence at the Capitol on Sunday, June 7, 2020.  (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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‘All one family’

Demonstrators fanned out across Atlanta and its suburbs, from downtown to Kennesaw, and from the Governor’s Mansion in Buckhead to Gwinnett Place Mall.

In Buckhead, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and wife Stacey, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and rookie linebacker Mykal Walker were among team representatives who joined a march to the Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Road.

Nicholas Jackson, a sophomore linebacker at the University of Virginia and Lovett School graduate, was one of the organizers along with Ryan Mutombo, the son of former NBA star and Atlanta Hawk, Dikembe Mutombo.

“We are hoping that this march will change the hearts of a lot of people in the Buckhead community and bring light to the Black Lives Matter movement,” the younger Mutombo said.

» RELATED: Falcons coach takes part in protest march

At Georgia State University downtown, a column of protesters left Woodruff Park for the State Capitol. The crowd waved signs and chanted until they reached Alania Smith.

Wearing a mortarboard and a Georgia State shirt, Smith posed for graduation pictures. The crowd stopped to congratulate the 22-year-old.

“With everything that has been going on, with COVID-19, then the protests, it was discouraging, but you still have to push through,” said Smith, who now has a degree in political science. “I knew I had to finish school and today I was just trying to find a bright moment with everything that is happening.”

Protesters take a knee in front of the Georgia Governor's Mansion on Sunday, June 7, 2020.   (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

Police officers stayed near the protests, but their presence was hardly the show of force seen days earlier.

Brandon Johnson poked his head out of his candy shop to get a gauge of the numbers. His Club Candy ATL shop was largely spared from looting from last weekend.

The shop has signs on the windows telling people it is black-owned.

“We debated doing that, but the main reason we did it is because we stand in solidarity with the protesters,” Johnson said. “They are out the fighting for my rights, too. We can’t hide behind the glass.”

About 3 p.m., several hundred gathered in Piedmont Park at 12th Street and Piedmont Avenue for a march for black and transgender lives.

Travon Bracey, one of the organizers, said authorities often fail to find justice for transgender victims of crime and their families. Transgender people also are victims of violence in jails at a higher rate than other inmates.

“We want to recognize our trans brothers and sisters who are being slaughtered on these streets,” Bracey said. “We are all one family, right?”

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests

The crowd marched through Piedmont Park chanting “No justice, no peace! [Expletive] these racist ass police!” The crowd grew as it crossed over 10th Street onto Charles Allen Drive past Grady High School. Motorists honked and people on their balconies clapped.

Jonathan Lykes, an organizer of the Piedmont Park march, said the group also recognized Iyanna Dior, a black transgender woman reportedly beaten by a mob of mostly black men in Minnesota.

“We’re fighting against white supremacy but also fighting against transphobia and homophobia within the movement,” Lykes said.

Lykes said the group wants to see funds for police shifted to help black communities.

“We’re trying to sustain this for a long period of time, move to strategic civil disobedience as Martin Luther King taught us,” Lykes said. “You’ll see future protests more organized and planned.”

Demonstrators make their way down Satellite Boulevard during a protest billed as "Justice for Black Lives," which originated at Gwinnett Place mall on Sunday, June 7, 2020. (Photo: John Amis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: John Amis

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Credit: John Amis

‘Freedom and justice now’

About 2,000 demonstrators marched from Gwinnett Place Mall along Satellite Boulevard to a Gwinnett County police precinct.

The racially mixed crowd held signs including “Asians for Black Lives” and “Latinos for Black Lives.”

Before the crowd started its march, organizers in yellow vests tried to help demonstrators socially distance and all were urged to wear masks, and most complied.

Dre Propst, one of organizers, called for “freedom and justice now.”

“I’m tired of my people dying,” said Propst, who is black. “I’m tired and my heart is broken.”

» PHOTOS: Demonstrators in Gwinnett

Propst said the march would be peaceful and it was. Gwinnett police and sheriff’s deputies handed out water to demonstrators as police helicopters hovered overhead.

At the police precinct, demonstrators took a knee and called for holding law enforcement accountable for killing black and brown residents, divest portions of police budgets into health care, education and housing.

Krislynn and Jeremy Jones of Snellville brought their 3-year-old daughter Erza to the Gwinnett Place protest. Erza wore rainbow sparkle boots and carried a “Black Lives Matter” sign. The couple and their daughter, who are white, said the diversity of the crowd reflected the diversity of Gwinnett.

“I see people who care who have actually woken up to the problems that have existed for a long time,” Krislynn Jones said. “Change is happening but not fast enough.”

Darshan Williams, who is black and lives in Dallas, called the crowd beautiful.

“As we were approaching coming from the car, I got chills and felt tears welling up,” she said.

“I hope they see the need for change,” Williams said of lawmakers.

Staff writer D. Orlando Ledbetter contributed to this report.