National Guard members stand downtown as crowds disperse. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

Atlanta protests: 6th night of demonstrations ends with 43 arrests

Atlanta residents came together across the metro area Wednesday for the sixth consecutive day of protests against police brutality and racism. 

The curfew for the city of Atlanta was extended for the next five days, going into effect at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests

Protesters converge in downtown Atlanta for a sixth day of protests in the city. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Photo: Ben Gray

On Tuesday night, Atlanta police arrested 52 people in connection with the protests, which were organized in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick.

Here are minute-by-minute updates on Wednesday’s protests from AJC reporters and photographers on the scene:

6:01 a.m. Thursday: Atlanta police made a total of 43 arrests, department spokesman Officer Anthony Grant said.

9:30 p.m.: Some protesters returned to the site of the protests downtown. Police officers chased several people and took them into custody.

9:15 p.m.: The protesters cleared out peacefully. Tear gas was not released; police officers walked toward some people who lingered and followed them until they were gone.

“What a beautiful day, wasn't it? We had a great message today, everybody got home safely, going home at 9:00,” Atlanta police Lt. Kevin Knapp told reporters shortly after the curfew hit. “This is exactly what we want. Our voices were heard, protesters' voices were heard.”

PHOTOS: Protesters gather across metro Atlanta

9 p.m.: A curfew is now in effect for the city of Atlanta. The crowd downtown has thinned significantly, but some protesters remain.

8:50 p.m.: Police and some members of the National Guard near Centennial Park have put on gas masks. On recent nights, police have released tear gas shortly after the 9 p.m. curfew.

8:30 p.m.: Curfew is approaching. Protesters sat down in the intersection of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive for more than 30 minutes as speakers addressed the crowd.

A 26-year-old woman yelled into a megaphone: “If Wakanda was real, would you have to be protesting?”

“Don’t let them silence your voice,” she said. “Don’t be scared. It’s too late to be scared!”

Dylan Doyle of Woodstock, a U.S. Army veteran who has served in Afghanistan, stood up and saluted a woman while she was speaking. He said he has saluted many times during his career, but "I never felt it was worthy until now."

8 p.m.: Organizers announced to protesters that they will sit down in the intersection at 8:50 p.m. — 10 minutes before curfew — and demand that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms address the crowd.

“They say they’re extending curfew because we’re throwing bottles. Tonight, we’re not throwing no bottles. We’re just sitting peacefully and asking the mayor to come talk to us,” Jay Jarns said.

More than 70 miles east of Atlanta, Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker said on Facebook Wednesday that she tested positive for COVID-19. Parker was one of the organizers of a protest there Sunday.

MORE COVERAGE: Decatur residents and their kids turn out for peaceful race protest

7:30 p.m.: Mayor Bottoms on Wednesday said she will establish a commission to examine and oversee the city police department’s use-of-force policies.

She announced the creation of the commission in a tweet and said it will consist of “stakeholders and organizers” who will “examine (Atlanta’s) use-of-force policies and call upon them to make recommendations accordingly.”

In downtown Atlanta, protesters discuss what the recent demonstrations mean to them. Nathan Knight, 73, walked down a line of white crosses. Hollering into a megaphone, he walked down the line and said the names on the crosses: “Ahmaud Arbery! Trayvon Martin! Tamir Rice! Michael Brown!”

He said wants the world to know the message of the protesters is not violence —  it’s fairness and an end to structural racism. A few vandalism have been given too much attention while the peaceful majority of protesters aren’t getting heard, he said.

“We can achieve our objective through nonviolent means,” said Knight, who is the president of the DeKalb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Kaya Muhammad has two sons, and is protesting for them. 

“One of my sons, he plays college football. He got a scholarship, he’s 19, and when I saw (the Minneapolis officer) put his knee on George, I saw my son under there,” she said. She is concerned about the police brutality and the racially motivated crimes kids see today. “They’ve been watching a horror movie every single night of their lives.”

7 p.m.: A large group began marching from Centennial Olympic Park, walking northeast on Ted Turner Drive before looping back toward the park.

Earlier, National guardsmen leaned on their shields in the road outside the CNN Center. Atlanta SWAT officers munched on Chick-fil-A sandwiches and watched the crowd growing outside the park. Some officers lined up with zip ties, facing the protesters.

Alexis Swatz, a black Atlanta resident, said her little brothers and sisters are the reason she came out to protest. 

“This movement is too big to not be part of," she said.

6:30 p.m.: As the peaceful protests filled Centennial Olympic Park Drive, the crowd chanted, “Say her name, Breonna Taylor,” in honor of the 26-year-old black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers in March.

Facing law enforcement, they also shouted, “Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see a riot here.”

Mekkah Nicole, Joshua Gilyard, and Shy Day have been at the protests downtown for the past three days registering people to vote. 

“There’s a lot of people out here that are angry, but a lot of people that don’t even know when the primary or general election is,” Gilyard said. He said he hopes their organization, Organized Defiance, will help protesters direct their anger in ways that will make change.

Mekkah Nicole, Joshua Gilyard, and Shy Day at the protests downtown.
Photo: Sarah Kallis/AJC

6 p.m.: As the crowds grew downtown, Jacob Cannon, 22, held a sign calling for Atlanta Police Department Erika Shields to resign over her comments related to the recent criminal charges levied against six officers. Shields said in an email to employees late Tuesday that she believes the charges in the excessive force case are politically motivated.

“I took exception to her statement,” Cannon said as other protesters chanted around him. “I disagree. What the officers did is representative of the institutional problems embedded in police culture.”

Jacob Cannon holds a sign at the protest downtown Wednesday.
Photo: Joshua Sharpe/AJC

Daniel Brown, 26, of Brookhaven, he said he was racially profiled by police in Connecticut, and the incident has stuck with him ever since. 

“I was pissed, and felt invisible,” said Brown, who is black. He added that the protests will force the issues of racial profiling and police brutality into living rooms across America. 

“People don't understand until it's in their faces," he said during the rally downtown.

5:30 p.m.: A large crowd has gathered downtown for the sixth straight night of protests there.

Outside Centennial Olympic Park, protesters held signs encouraging drivers to “Honk for Justice.” A few members of the National Guard were inside the park, which is closed.

East of the city, Decatur High School graduate Chalèah Head, now a student at Georgia State University, said she called for the Decatur rally on social media. She knew residents in her hometown would remain peaceful. 

Head at the protest in Decatur.
Photo: Ty Tagami/AJC

“I'm tired of getting teargassed,” she said. She plans on attending one of the next protests in Atlanta. She also said she was surprised by the size of the crowd.

5 p.m.: Adjacent to the rally in Decatur, a century-old obelisk outside the old county courthouse in memory of the "lost cause," glorifying the Confederacy, sits next to a recent retort by the county commission. A new placard next to the obelisk states that it “bolstered white supremacy and faulty history” and that the Civil War was started over slavery.

The obelisk and contextual marker in downtown Decatur.
Photo: Ty Tagami/AJC

“I can't breathe,” the crowd chanted, as city and county police watch. They were not wearing riot gear.

The crowd also chanted, “Vote Trump out!” and listed the names of black men killed by police. The Decatur rally began breaking up shortly before 5 p.m.

4:30 p.m.: In Decatur, the crowd flowed back into the square and kneeled in silence in honor of George Floyd. Volunteers also handed out refreshments to marchers. The Brick Store Pub, a downtown eatery known for a vast selection of brewers' finest, shut down for the event, and employees were handing out water bottles.

MARTA announced it will operate its rail, bus and paratransit services as scheduled Wednesday night despite Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ decision to impose a 9 p.m. curfew. The agency will not operate its streetcar service.

4 p.m.: Hundreds gathered on the square in downtown Decatur and began a peaceful march. They chanted “Black Lives Matter,” fists pumping into the air. They walked slowly to the street chanting, "No justice, no peace." Some adults brought little kids with them.

A large group of protesters gathered in Decatur Square.
Photo: Ty Tagami/AJC

3 p.m.: Groups of protesters also gathered on Atlanta’s Beltline near Inman Park and in Decatur Square for a series of peaceful demonstrations.

2 p.m.: Marietta Square saw its second protest in three days when about 100 people, mostly teens and college-aged students, rallied against police brutality amid the outcry over the death of George Floyd in police custody. Wednesday’s protest was peaceful and included people who varied in age, race and ethnicity. 

A protester holds two signs during a protest on Marietta Square over the recent Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, held Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Marietta. JOHN AMIS FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Photo: John Amis

READ MORE: ‘Stop killing us!’: Protesters in Marietta demand change in policing

The president of the Cobb County NAACP told the crowd that the Georgia General Assembly should pass a proposed hate crime bill. The group also observed a moment of silence.

1:30 p.m.: Dozens of airport workers gathered for a caravan from downtown Atlanta to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, calling for an end to police violence and for continued health insurance for workers who have been furloughed from jobs at airport restaurants and shops.

“Everybody’s getting really tired and upset. You get frustrated and you get angry,” said Linda Harris, an airport concessions worker and shop steward for the UNITE Here union. “We are trying, through all of this, to maintain our healthcare.”

Speakers including U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Riggs Amico spoke to the workers before the caravan took off through downtown and down I-85 to the airport. 

— Please return to AJC.com for updates throughout the afternoon and evening.

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