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Protesters set Wendy’s on fire, enter interstate after Atlanta death

A white Atlanta police officer fatally shot an African American father of several young children late Friday night following a struggle outside a Wendy’s restaurant on the city’s southside, sparking calls for reform and demonstrations that led to vandalism and arrests. The shooting further inflamed tensions over police use of force and racial injustice that have rocked Atlanta and cities across the nation since the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. By nightfall, the Wendy’s was in flames and demonstrators had shut down Atlanta’s busy Downtown Connector. (Video by Ryon Horne, Written by J. Scott Trubey Vanessa McCray Arielle Kass)

An Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, 27, was fatally shot by police Friday night was set on fire.

The restaurant caught fire Saturday after protesters broke windows at the restaurant and threw fireworks inside.

Cortez Stafford, a spokesman for Atlanta fire, said the blaze grew because it wasn’t safe to get to the area near the restaurant when the fire began. He estimated there were 1,000 protesters near the Wendy’s.

June 13, 2020 -  Atlanta -  Wendy's in flames, after demonstrators blocked the interstate and set it on fire.     Protestors gather at University Ave. at the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man,  was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle in a Wendy’s drive-thru line.    Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
June 13, 2020 - Atlanta - Wendy's in flames, after demonstrators blocked the interstate and set it on fire. Protestors gather at University Ave. at the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle in a Wendy’s drive-thru line. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

“We’re now making our way in there to get a handle on the fire,” he said around 11 p.m.

Brooks had allegedly fallen asleep in his car and blocked the restaurant's drive-through when Atlanta police were called. Brooks' shooting led to the resignation, earlier today, of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields.

Police responded to the Wendy’s at 125 University Ave. about 10:30 p.m. Friday. Officers confronted Brooks, who authorities said failed a field sobriety test. A struggle broke out as police officers attempted to arrest Brooks.

Video posted on social media showed Brooks on the ground wrestling with two white Atlanta police officers in the parking lot. Officers attempted to use a Taser on Brooks, who was able to wrestle the stun gun away and flee as officers give chase. Shots are heard but not seen in the video.

Restaurant surveillance video released late Saturday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation shows Brooks running away. He then turns and appears to fire the Taser at the pursuing officers before shots are heard.

Demonstrators are detained. Protesters had shut down the interstate near an Atlanta Wendy's on Saturday, June 13, 2020, in response to the death of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening following a struggle in a Wendy's drive-thru line. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitutiion)
Demonstrators are detained. Protesters had shut down the interstate near an Atlanta Wendy's on Saturday, June 13, 2020, in response to the death of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening following a struggle in a Wendy's drive-thru line. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitutiion)

The protests in response to Brooks' death come as people across the country are protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the treatment of black people by law enforcement. Both men are black. Floyd died after a police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin has been charged in Floyd's death.

In addition to the Wendy’s fire, protesters walked on to the highway earlier in the evening, stopping traffic. Troopers warned them that they were violating the law. The demonstrators locked arms.

“You have three minutes to disperse,” a trooper said.

Organizers encouraged people to leave, but not many did. Some demonstrators were arrested on the interstate before one lane on the highway reopened shortly after 10 p.m.

Protesters continued on to the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 3 precinct on Cherokee Avenue where they chanted.

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