On Friday, demonstrators in downtown Atlanta hurled rocks at police and set cruisers on fire, broke windows at CNN Center and turned Centennial Olympic Park into a graffiti-strewn disaster area. Protesters also looted stores in downtown and then moved to Buckhead, where more businesses were damaged.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the first curfew on Saturday, starting at 9 p.m. The curfew was extended Sunday and Monday. Nearby Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County also issued a curfew Monday after protesters took to the streets there.
“What we saw in Atlanta last night and what we are seeing in cities across America is an explosion,” Bottoms said at a Saturday news conference. “And what should not be lost in this explosion is what this anger and frustration is about for so many.”
Harvey Newman, professor emeritus from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, said it’s important that the mayor make it clear that the curfews are not indefinite. The more explanation of their necessity that she can provide, the better its reception will be.
Gerald Griggs, first vice president with the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the curfew draconian. He said it is inflexible and robs citizens of their freedom of speech.
“The power structure wants to send a message to our community that they want to mute our voice and we’re very upset about that,” he said. “When you protest for your civil rights and social justice as a brown and black person they take more of your rights away.”
Opponents point to the Atlanta Police using a stun gun on a pair of students Sunday as an example of their concerns. Two officers involved in the incident were fired.
Thaddeus Johnson, a doctoral student in criminal justice and criminology at Georgia State University who studies curfews and their impact, said the city was in a no-win situation. Leaders use it when all other efforts to persuade those assembled to follow the rules fails.
“The mayor is in a really tough spot because she sees both sides of it,” said Johnson, a former officer with the Tennessee State Police. “She knows why they are acting out. She knows they are not bad people. She knows what they are protesting are bad circumstances.”