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Cleanup Underway After Night Of Destruction In Atlanta

In Atlanta, Bill Tracy walks past a peace sign he made Saturday from broken glass near the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center in the aftermath of a demonstration the night before against police violence.
In Atlanta, Bill Tracy walks past a peace sign he made Saturday from broken glass near the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center in the aftermath of a demonstration the night before against police violence.
Credit Brynn Anderson / Associated PRess
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Updated at 2:20 p.m. Saturday

National Guard members lined sidewalks in downtown Atlanta early Saturday as crews cleaned up glass and debris left behind after chaos broke out during a protest over the death in Minnesota of George Floyd.

Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency early Saturday and tweeted that up to 500 members of the Guard would deploy immediately “to protect people & property in Atlanta.”

He said he acted at the request of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who had earlier appealed in vain for calm.

The mayor issued a statement Saturday.

A large electronic billboard with a red background and the city’s seal on Saturday morning still carried the message, “If you love Atlanta PLEASE GO HOME,” echoing the mayor’s pleas.

National Guard members blocked anyone from approaching heavily damaged buildings, including the College Football Hall of Fame and nearby restaurants.

Shattered glass covered the sidewalk and spray-painted messages covered many surfaces.

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Street cleaning crews and volunteers cleaned up debris as curious residents surveyed the aftermath, taking photos and shooting video. Spray-painted tags on the logo sign at the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta had already vanished.

The Georgia National Guard lines up Saturday in front of the College Football Hall of Fame in the aftermath of a demonstration in Atlanta. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)
The Georgia National Guard lines up Saturday in front of the College Football Hall of Fame in the aftermath of a demonstration in Atlanta. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

As protesters set fires and broke windows, officers issued disbursement orders and used tear gas to try to stop them, according to posts on the Atlanta Police Department Facebook page. Protesters shot at officers and threw bricks, bottles, rocks and knives, police said.

At least four officers were injured and multiple arrests were made, according to the Facebook posts, but spokesman Carlos Campos said in an email early Saturday that it would take some time to gather information and put out exact numbers.

On Saturday morning, damage to businesses and some apartment buildings could be seen along intermittent sections of Peachtree Road in Buckhead, an upscale neighborhood north of downtown Atlanta where large groups moved late Friday night after demonstrations downtown splintered.

Windows were shattered at a CVS pharmacy and a Dick’s Sporting Goods store across the street from Phipps Plaza, a luxury shopping mall where plywood boards were nailed over entrances and a SERVPRO disaster recovery team worked.

Just up the road, there was visible damage to Del Frisco’s Grille, where the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department said firefighters extinguished a blaze just before 1 a.m.

Several high-end jewelry stores up and down Peachtree sustained damage, with smashed windows and storefronts boarded. The front door of a Dior designer clothing store was broken and displays inside toppled.

Several people in ordinary street clothes, many wearing face masks and some accompanied by children, were outside buildings and stores sweeping up glass and picking up other trash left behind.

The demonstration Friday began peacefully, according to both police and participants.

There was a march from Centennial Olympic Park to the Capitol and back. Many protesters then went into the park while a group splintered off and got into a confrontation with police.

Videos circulating on social media showed Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields circulating in the crowd, listening and talking to protesters, telling them she understands their frustration and fear.

Gerald Griggs, an attorney and a leader in the local NAACP, tweeted early Saturday morning: “My Heart is heavy for my city. 4 hours of peaceful protest and then it ended. Groups from outside of the real protest changed the tone.”

At a news conference late Friday, Mayor Bottoms said, “This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.”

She was flanked by King’s daughter, Bernice King, and rappers T.I. and Killer Mike.

“We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta, what have we got?” said Killer Mike, crying as he spoke.

Police officers and protesters clash near CNN center Friday in Atlanta.
Police officers and protesters clash near the CNN Center Friday in Atlanta. (Mike Stewart/Associated Press)

Elsewhere

Atlanta was just one city shaken by tumult late Friday that erupted over Floyd’s death. Large demonstrations in New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., and dozens of other cities ranged from people peacefully blocking roads to repeated clashes with police.

Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who worked for the Minneapolis Police Department, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

Floyd died after the 44-year-old Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

Video posted to social media showed New York City officers Friday night using batons and shoving protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared streets. One video showed an officer slam a woman to the ground as he walked past her in the street.

Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, scrawled graffiti across its charred body and set it aflame again as officers retreated. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter another police vehicle.

“There will be a full review of what happened tonight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, referring to the Brooklyn protest. “We don’t ever want to see another night like this.”

The police department said numerous officers were injured, including one whose tooth was knocked out.

The names of black people killed by police, including Floyd and Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014, were on signs and in chants.

“Our country has a sickness. We have to be out here,” said Brianna Petrisko, among those at lower Manhattan’s Foley Square, where most were wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. “This is the only way we’re going to be heard.”

Protesters in Houston, where Floyd grew up, included 19-year-old Jimmy Ohaz from the nearby city of Richmond, Texas: “My question is how many more, how many more? I just want to live in a future where we all live in harmony and we’re not oppressed.”

Demonstrators on the West Coast blocked highways in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.

About 1,000 protesters in Oakland smashed windows, sprayed buildings with “Kill Cops” graffiti and were met with chemical spray from police, who said several officers were injured by projectiles.

One Los Angeles officer received medical treatment, police said. An LAPD vehicle had its windows smashed, and at least one city bus was vandalized. Police declared an unlawful assembly throughout downtown, where aerial footage from KTLA-TV showed scored of people corralled by police.

An LAPD spokesman told The Associated Press they were still tallying arrests.

“I believe in our city. L.A. is strong enough to stand for justice and walk in love,” Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted, cautioning “violence and vandalism hurts all.”

San Jose, California, police said that Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies shot at a fleeing SUV that was shown on video striking protesters, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Protesters repeatedly clashed with police in San Jose, said Mayor Sam Liccardo, and police responded with flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets. One officer was hospitalized with a non-life-threatening injury, officials said.

Liccardo said his city’s officers shared the community’s outrage over Floyd’s death.

“It was a horrible injustice,” he told the AP.

Portland, Oregon, police said at least one shooting was tied to the protest, although details weren’t immediately released. Two people were arrested during overnight riots in which protesters set fires throughout downtown and smashed storefront windows, police said, but arrest details were immediately available.

Police, who declared the protest a riot, said they deployed gas after people threw projectiles at them.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted a plea to protesters to remain peaceful and said that, while he had left Portland to attend to his dying mother, he was heading back.

“Portland, this is not us,” he wrote. “When you destroy our city, you are destroying our community. When you act in violence against each other, you are hurting all of us. How does this honor the legacy of George Floyd?”