ATLANTA - Demonstrations in Atlanta over the weekend turned heated as people defaced Piedmont Park's Peace Monument. But one lone officer stood in front of the monument, determined to ease tensions as protesters hurled hateful words his way.
Fortunately, that officer was able to bring calm to what could have been an ugly scene. But for the first time, Atlanta Police Major Timothy Peek is speaking out about that night.
The APD Zone 6 commander was the voice of reason that night. He was able to defuse the situation by talking it out with the group, but he said there were dozens of officers on the scene ready to move in if need be.
Major Peek stood at the base of the "Peace Monument" in Piedmont Park Sunday night, surrounded by a crowd of mostly hostile demonstrators, intent on destroying the Confederate statue. Video captured some of the exchange between Peek and the protesters.
"You defend the property of the state. You defend this harder than you would defend someone's life," said one protester.
"I defend anything that defends anyone including your property," said Peek.
The group, protesting the white supremacist violence unleashed in Charlottesville during demonstrations there Saturday had already defaced the monument, lassoed it with a heavy chain, and protestors tried to pull it down when the major arrived on scene.
"We welcome you to sit down with anyone to discuss any issues going on in today's time," said Peek.
That night he faced down the mostly hostile crowd, and after talking with angry protesters at length managed to defuse a tense situation.
"You have to kind of have that strategic mindset to figure out how to ultimately get someone to open up to you to be of service to them and that's what we want to do," said Peek.
The Zone 6 commander received high praise for his actions, but he said most people didn't see on camera that night was the dozens of law enforcement officers who were on hand, ready to move in should things escalate.
"You have that right to demonstrate and say whatever you want to say but try to maintain an orderly fashion is really our intent," said Peek.
The major expressed that same sentiment to protestors, some he recognized from past demonstrations, making it clear he wouldn't allow what up until that point was a peaceful demonstration turned violent under his watch.
"We have to try as much as possible to have a neutral stance to it but at some point, we want to make sure we don't allow for people to get harmed or for there to be property damage and different things," said Peek.
Major Peek said it's important to realize we're all different but we're all human beings and must figure out how to come together, to move forward. He believes that can be accomplished through love and service.