ATLANTA — What started as hundreds of peaceful protestors marching the streets of Atlanta turned into a clash with police.
In response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a large crowd made the more than two-mile trek Friday from Olympic Centennial Park in the heart of the city to the State Capitol Building and back.
Most demonstrators wore masks and kept their distance to prevent the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.
“No justice, no peace,” they chanted.
State officials were already prepared; a fleet of police escorted the crowd.
“(I) certainly understand the reason for people wanting to protest and I'm certainly in support of them, as long as they're taking the proper actions, “ Gov. Brian Kemp said during a press conference Thursday. “They want to have a peaceful protest. We stand ready to help them do that.”
But the scene changed dramatically after protestors made their way back to the CNN Center.
By about 5:30 p.m., protestors and police were engaged in physical altercations and pepper spray was deployed multiple times.
Shortly after 6 p.m., Atlanta police called on protestors to disperse and move out of the streets — but many continued to press law-enforcement lines while others took a knee.
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields told WSB-TV that “people are understandably upset.”
“The events in Minneapolis were appalling,” she said. “People are upset, they’re angry, they’re scared and I get it. They want to be heard.”
Shields said she didn't want the protests to turn into an “arrest fest" as night descended on the streets.