ATLANTA - The city of Atlanta is beginning the process of cleaning up after a peaceful protest turned violent downtown Friday night,
The city was placed under a state of emergency after Gov. Kemp authorized the Georgia National Guard to help keep the peace as violence flared following the death in Minnesota of George Floyd after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck while taking him into custody.
Members of the Guard were seen Saturday morning posted in front of the National College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. The museum had been a target of looters, who smashed its gift shop's windows and made off with merchandise.
Thankfully, Hall of Fame officials say the damage was focused on the gift shop and part of the indoor field. No memorabilia or artifacts were taken or damaged in the destruction.
Kimberly Beaudin, CEO of the College Football Hall of Fame, said in a statement that she was "heartbroken" to see the damage, but that the Hall would work to get back up and running.
"In the coming days and weeks, we’ll work to pick up the pieces, to build back the sacred walls that housed memories and honored those who played the game many of whom fought these same injustices throughout their storied careers," Beaudin said.
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 CNN Center in downtown Atlanta had already vanished.
Several miles north in Buckhead, the sound of an alarm at the Del Frisco's Grille on Peachtree Road was still sounding hours after protestors set fire to the restaurant and blocked fire crews from the area.
The damage continued down Peachtree Street. Violent protestors overturned tables, shattered windows, and ransacked jewelry stores, bakeries, lounges, and phone stores.
The looters also targeted a nearby Kroger on Piedmont Avenue, nearly clearing out the grocery store.
Speaking to FOX 5, former Mayor and president of the Buckhead Coalition Sam Massell said the violence was "not the Atlanta way.
"It's very embarrassing," he said. "It's saddening. The worst part is that for those of us who have worked so diligently over the years and bringing about reform step by step is that this is taking it back two steps."
A bakery in Buckhead has its windows shattered and tables thrown around by demonstrators.
In a statement to FOX 5, a spokesperson for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce said that Atlanta businesses are committed to holding up and preserving the idea that the city was a the "Black Mecca."
“It’s been a tough month. Watching what has happened in our own state, our own city and across the country has been painful," the Chamber said in a statement. "We firmly believe that in metro Atlanta, our differences are our strength. In Atlanta, we come together, we engage in tough conversations, we find solutions and we work together to make our community and the world — better."
A worker cleans the lobby of CNN after rioting and protests in Atlanta on May 29, 2020. (Photo by John Amis / Agence France-Presse / AFP via Getty Images)
Atlanta police told FOX 5 that at least four officers were hurt and there were multiple arrests. According to Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos, protesters shot at officers with BB guns and threw bricks, bottles, and knives.
The damage came after a desperate appeal for calm by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who spoke on Friday alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King and rappers T.I. and Killer Mike.
“This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Bottoms said. “You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.”
Atlanta was just one city shaken by tumult and violence 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.