Atlanta's mayor said Monday that police showed "extraordinary restraint" during four straight nights of protests over the police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and urged protesters to show respect to law enforcement as demonstrations continue.
"I believe that our officers have done an exceptional job," Mayor Kasim Reed said. "In some cases, they have had bottles of water thrown at them and obscenities and insults shouted at them repeatedly for hours on end. Yet they have remained calm and professional."
Reed said the long hours are taking a toll, though. He said officers also are affected by the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas on Thursday evening as a peaceful protest against police shootings wound down.
"When our officers are out on the street in droves, providing protection for your protest, the very least that we can do is to treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve and the dignity and respect that you are asking for during your protest," Reed said.
Reed said about 15,000 people attended various protests this weekend, and 14 people were arrested Saturday and Sunday by the Atlanta Police Department. Two others were arrested by the Georgia State Patrol.
People holding signs gathered each night and marched through the streets chanting, with the largest crowds occurring on Friday night. Reed said the crowd changed from families on Friday to "people unaffiliated with community organizations that we are aware of" on Saturday and Sunday.
Demonstrators gathered again Monday evening and marched to the governor's mansion in Buckhead, where they staged a sit-in. An 11 p.m. closing time will be enforced at city parks, according to a statement issued by the police department several hours after Reed held a press conference on Monday at police headquarters.
Anyone violating the ordinance "will receive a warning," the statement said. "Failure to comply with the warning can result in an arrest."
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner ticked off a list of partner organizations, including the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center within the state's Office of Homeland Security. Turner said helicopters, police in street clothes, cameras located around the city and other "intelligence gathering" helped manage the weekend demonstrations.
Reed said police worked 12-hours shifts, with staff and officers logging about 6,000 overtime hours. All off-days were canceled to manage the marches and demonstrations that continued late into the night over the weekend. He suggested officials would have to re-evaluate their strategy if the protests continue for a full week and said he's considering a curfew. Asked whether he would request National Guard assistance, Reed said "it's not an option that I prefer."
"I think the current configuration is the right configuration that has worked well for us," he said.
Reed again blasted some protesters' strategy of blocking freeways as dangerous for themselves and motorists. Law enforcement agencies have used vehicle convoys to prevent that in Atlanta in recent days.
This story has been corrected to show that the Atlanta Police Department issued a statement on closing times for city parks on Monday, not Friday.
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