Five days of demonstrations took place in Atlanta to protest the recent shooting deaths of African American males by police officers, including the highly publicized and videotaped killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Atlanta's first major protest started on Thurs, July 7, around 6:30 p.m., with a large group of people gathering outside of Underground Atlanta. "We are a collective of activist groups in Atlanta," said Morehouse College student and member of #AUCShutItDown, Avery Jackson, as the crowd listened. "We are not marching just to be marching, but we are marching to organize." Jackson voiced his frustration with the lack of change that has been brought about from other recent protests. "This isn't about just tonight, right? Because we've been here before," he said. "This space is going to be an affirming space for all black people." Following Jackson's speech, the pumped up crowd of varying ages, religions, sexual orientations, and economic statuses, began its journey down Peachtree Street. A group of designated marshals, who were mostly white individuals, stepped in front of moving traffic in order for the protestors to "speak their peace." The crowd chanted boisterously: "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" "It is our duty to fight for our freedom!" and "Black Lives Matter!" as they journeyed toward Piedmont Park. Cars honked in solidarity while others blasted their horns in frustration. Patrons of businesses and residence along Peachtree Street used their cell phones to capture the event. The march of more than 1,000 ended at Piedmont Park, where the crowd gathered and words from varying individuals spoke on police brutality and its effect on the community, both national and local. A black man had been found hanged in Piedmont Park at around 5 a.m. that morning. Although police said it looked like a suicide, Mayor Kasim Reed issued a statement saying he had referred the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "Everything we have seen suggests that there was no foul play involved, but I want to state clearly and unequivocally that we will not prejudge the circumstances surrounding this young man's death," Reed said. After leaving Piedmont Park, demonstrators marched north, eventually walking on the Downtown Connector and blocking traffic while holding a sign that said, "Fuck the Police."
The next night, Fri., July 8, approximately 10,000 protesters gathered at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. "Black Lives Matter," "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!," and "No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Ass Police," were just some of the chants that protestors forcefully yelled as they left the Center and marched down the streets of Atlanta. The Black Lives Matter rally, which was sponsored by the Georgia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, started with speeches from prominent members of the community Following the speeches, citizens blocked city streets in protest of the recent police shootings of two African American males. After returning to the museum, a group of hundreds of protestors broke off and headed toward the Ivan Allen Boulevard and Williams Street entrance of the interstate. Police met the protestors and stood their ground for hours.
On Sat., July 9, the third night of protests in Atlanta, after an evening march across the 17th Street bridge, a much smaller group of protesters ended up in the Old 4th Ward neighborhood near Auburn and Edgewood Avenue. At one point a driver drove through a group of protesters, leaving two women with minor injuries. The driver was arrested on the spot by APD. This night had more arrests than any of the other nights thus far, totaling nine arrests of protesters for varying charges.
On Sun., July 10, protests continued with a large gathering rally to memorialize Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Centennial Olympic Park. And around 11:30 p.m. shortly after staging a sit-in outside the Five Points MARTA station, Avery Jackson rested his bullhorn on his shoulder and simply walked with a few hundred protesters. For the previous three nights, the 21-year-old Morehouse College student and a team of other activists helped lead thousands — and on one night, an estimated 10,000 — of protesters through Downtown and Midtown to decry two recent police-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota, along with the deeper issues of racial injustice. They would continue to march, Jackson said, until the city started caring about the “lives and livelihoods” of black people.
Roughly 24 hours later, on July 11, outside an unoccupied governor’s mansion in Buckhead (Deal was on a trade mission to Germany), Mayor Kasim Reed and Police Chief George Turner told activists that their message had been heard — or would at least be given attention. After five days of protests, approximately 35 arrests, and 6,000 hours of police keeping the peace, Reed said law enforcement needed to rest, protesters needed to regroup, and a dialogue between the activists and city leaders needed to begin.
“They have a lot on their heart,” Reed said.