A small group of peaceful protesters gathered at Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown on Friday night and again on Saturday following the release of video showing Tyre Nichols’ deadly encounter with five Memphis, TN police officers.
Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency for Georgia through Feb. 9 and called up 1,000 National Guard troops in anticipation of violent protests in the state, which have not materialized.
Another protest is set for this evening at 5 p.m. in Decatur on the Courthouse Square sponsored by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance.
The five Memphis, TN police officers were charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Nichols, a Black motorist who died after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.
Video of the encounter – described as “absolutely appalling” by the Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation – showed disturbing body camera and surveillance footage of the officers beating Nichols after he was handcuffed
Kemp’s order also comes after a Downtown Atlanta protest over the shooting death of activist Manuel Teran at the site of the city’s future public training facility – nicknamed “Cop City” by opponents – turned violent last weekend.
The state of emergency “grants the Governor the authority to empower the Georgia National Guard to subdue riot and unlawful assembly.”
At the Buckhead Coalition’s annual luncheon Thursday, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the department is part of a strong coalition of federal and authorities that is on “high alert” for any possible protests that may occur like those last weekend.
He made the comment during a discussion on public safety with Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis and moderated by Atlanta Police Foundation President and CEO Dave Wilkinson.
“We’re going to continue to protect the First Amendment, we are dedicated to that,” Schierbaum said. “But we are the law enforcement agency in the city.”
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens notified Downtown businesses and residents that the city was prepared for any future protests following last week’s violence.
“I write to you following the incidents that took place on Saturday evening, when a group of rioters used the guise of a peaceful protest to conduct destructive acts in our community,” the mayor wrote in a letter obtained by Rough Draft.
“While quickly contained and mitigated, I know this incident was frightening to those who live or work in Downtown Atlanta,” he wrote. “As your Mayor, I want to personally extend my assurances that your safety remains our highest priority, and we are working tirelessly to prevent these illegal acts from occurring again in Atlanta.”
On Friday, the Atlanta Police Department released this statement:
We are closely monitoring the events in Memphis and are prepared to support peaceful protests in our city. We understand and share in the outrage surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols. Police officers are expected to conduct themselves in a compassionate, competent, and constitutional manner and these officers failed Tyre, their communities and their profession. We ask that demonstrations be safe and peaceful.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.