ATLANTA (AP) — Thousands of people across Georgia joined in dozens of protests for racial justice Saturday, from sometimes-festive events in downtown Atlanta, to a protest that drew hundreds in a once all-white north Georgia county.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Saturday morning lifted what had been a planned 8 p.m. curfew after no arrests were reported Friday in the city. Atlanta had been under a nightly curfew since the previous Friday, when a downtown protest dissolved into window-smashing, arson and looting.
The rallies have been organized to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and of others who died at the hands of police.
Atop a parking garage Saturday in downtown Atlanta, a group of black college band alumni were serenading one main protest area with a tuba-heavy mix of tunes.
Zachary Nealy, who was conducting the group, said the goal was to support the protesters and “give them a little extra energy and juice.”
Leah Aforkor Quaye, an African American business owner said it was her first time to hit the streets, saying she had been financially supporting earlier protests.
“I know this is not the only way my voice can be heard, but I want them to see us here,” said Quaye, standing outside Centennial Olympic Park in earshot of the band after a march. “I want them to know we’re not going to let us slide.”
Quaye said she doesn’t want to let things go back to normal because normal is “toxic” for African Americans.
“This makes people so uncomfortable, but the only way things are happening is if we make people uncomfortable,” Quaye said.
A group of students and alumni of Atlanta’s historically black colleges organized a march and protest against police violence, including parents of two people killed by police.
Recent Morehouse College graduate Jauan Durbin said he began organizing protests after fellow students Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young were pulled from their car and shocked with a stun gun last Saturday by police in downtown Atlanta. The incident was recorded on video and six officers were fired and then criminally charged within the last week.
Durbin said youth representatives had been speaking to city officials in recent days.
“One of the measures that the youth were advocating for was the discontinuance of the curfew,” Durbin told about 200 supporters on Saturday in a park before the march. “The curfew has been lifted.”
Durbin said youth protesters are calling for other measures including increased financial assistance for black businesses from Atlanta’s city government and increased funding for the city’s public school system.
“Now it is time for our city to put their money where their mouth is,” Durbin said.
Qri Montague, a radio producer, has said she was improperly handcuffed and shocked with a stun gun during a 2018 traffic stop. The officer later resigned and traffic violations were dropped. Montague is suing the city. She called on the mayor to do more.
“Mayor Bottoms, we need your bottom here," Montague told marchers at the youth protest. “We’re not going inside until it’s OK. We’re scared every single day, all day.”
In the Atlanta suburb of Cumming, local news outlets reported hundreds gathered at the Forsyth County courthouse to protest. A largely white crowd took a knee on the lawn of the courthouse, as supporters circling the square in vehicles honked horns in support.
“The odds are against us, our skin is against us. I can't even feel it, but it hurts," said Keisha Johnson, an African American woman who has lived in the county for 13 years. Johnson told the crowd her husband has been pulled over by police but not charged nine times.
Later, teens gathered on the side of a highway outside a restaurant. It was the second day of protest in Cumming after a smaller group gathered on the courthouse square Friday.
Now a rapidly growing and diversifying suburb, Forsyth County was once notorious as an all-white area, after black residents were driven out following a lynching and attacks in 1912. In 1987, 20,000 protesters marched on Cumming to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday after an earlier march was quashed, opposed by thousands of counter-demonstrators. Some signs Saturday mentioned events of 1912 and 1987.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.