Despite Unrest, Violence In Atlanta, Protests Across Georgia Remain Peaceful
As Atlanta made national headlines for three nights with fiery protests over the weekend, other cities across the state hosted their own calmer demonstrations.
Cities including Kennesaw, Athens, Cartersville and Woodstock joined with others around the country in demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while being arrested in Minneapolis. Former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen on a cell phone video kneeling on Floyd's neck for eight minutes as he detained him, was arrested last week on third degree murder charges.
While none of the protests outside of the Perimeter reached the same level of intensity as those seen in downtown Atlanta, the message was still clear: a demand for an end to systematic racism in America's police system and justice for George Floyd's killing.
In Kennesaw, demonstrators rallied downtown in front of Wildman's Shop, a storied and controversial store that has existed in the city for decades.
The self-proclaimed "civil war surplus" store has cultivated a reputation for selling racist paraphernalia. The store also hangs several iterations of the Confederate flag outside. In the past, the store has displayed KKK robes on mannequins.
At one point the owner of the store, Dent "Wildman" Myers, stepped outside and listened to the protesters and shook hands with several of them.
Protestors have massed outside of Wildman's Shop in downtown Kennesaw. The controversial store has a lengthy history of selling racist paraphernalia. pic.twitter.com/GW1MhW4L8A— Sarah Rose (@MaybeSarahRose) May 31, 2020
The protest then carried over into the park across the street, where several speakers and Kennesaw State University students shared their experiences of racial discrimination. Kennesaw police listened to demonstrators' complaints.
On Sunday evening two groups merged for a protest totaling around 2,000 people in the downtown Athens district. The two protests began at the University of Georgia Arch and another on the steps of the Clarke County Courthouse, just blocks away.
In Cartersville, protesters rallied downtown carrying handmade signs denouncing police brutality. Some signs read "I can't breathe," which were some of Floyd's last words.
Cars honked in support of the protesters gathered outside of city hall as they drove by.
This is what a PEACEFUL PROTEST IS! I'm so proud of my hometown! If I was there,I would've been apart of it to support my friends. I love seeing the Citizens of Cartersville come together,& support each other in a time like this❤ pic.twitter.com/HKWKDzlYD9— Catherine Agan (@CatherineAgan91) May 31, 2020
In Woodstock, protesters gathered on the side of the street holding signs. In a video posted to Facebook, an unidentified white man can be seen challenging the group and asking them repeatedly "Does my life matter?"
"Nobody is saying it doesn't," a younger protester can be seen responding.
In Marietta, demonstrators gathered at the city's police headquarters, where the crowd could be heard shouting "No racist police; I can't breathe." The crowd then walked to the Marietta Square and listened as civil rights leaders and students from the area spoke from the park's stage.
As the protests waged on through the weekend, several city police departments, including Sandy Springs, issued statements urging people to stay at home. The advisory came as the city of Atlanta instituted a 9 p.m. curfew on both Saturday and Sunday nights to quell protests.
Due to the group of protestors gathering in various areas throughout the metro area, including Sandy Springs, we are asking our residents to stay safe - stay at home. pic.twitter.com/eAva05WMvm— Sandy Springs Police (@SandySprings_PD) May 30, 2020
In Marietta, the police warned against any of the protests escalating into violence, but were complimentary toward the organizers of the afternoon demonstration.
"In case you were not aware, we DID have a demonstration earlier today that started at the Cobb police headquarters and ended in the Marietta Square," the department wrote in a statement on Facebook. "The organizers of the event did an outstanding job and everything went peacefully. We extend our sincere thanks to all involved in that planning."
Back in downtown Atlanta, Roberto Lowe and his son stood outside Centennial Olympic Park, which was closed to foot traffic Sunday after the park became the epicenter of the fiery protests Friday and Saturday.
In his son's hand was a sign that read "Equality."
When asked about why he thought so many people across the state, even young people in the suburbs, were responding to Floyd's death, Lowe paused for a moment in thought. After a second, he answered.
"We have to stand up for what's right," he said. "Until then, there will always be division."