Tyre Nichols: Peacefully protesting Georgians question role of National Guard at demonstrations

For the second day in a row, a group of Georgians gathered in Downtown Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park to protest the murder of Tyre Nichols. The 29-year-old man was beaten to near death by five Memphis police officers. With two peaceful demonstrations under their belt, some protestors have expressed a concern against the presence of Georgia's National Guard.

"It's important to demonstrate solidarity and demand justice for Tyre Nichols and all victims of police violence," said Natalie Villasana.

Villasana is a part of the group that organized the two protests. The organization said more people would have come out if it were not for Governor Brian Kemp declaring a State of Emergency and calling up the National Guard.

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Protesters march through downtown Atlanta on Jan. 28 demanding justice for Tyre Nichols. (Credit: Billy Heath)

From: FOX 5 Atlanta

"This is an attempt to scare people from protesting," Villasana said. "People shouldn't be afraid to protest."

Memphis officials said they feared releasing the graphic footage of the beating to the public Friday evening in case protests grew violent. Georgia officials, like Gov. Kemp, have expressed the same concern, especially after information that the officers were charged was also released.

Kemp's state of emergency called for up to 1000 members of the Georgia National Guard to be available to "subdue riot and unlawful assembly" in the chance that a peaceful protest could turn into a repeat of the riot that broke out downtown the previous weekend.

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About 100 Georgia National Guardsmen stage in Atlanta in case protests turn into unrest following the release of body camera video of the alleged police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis on Jan. 27, 2023. (Billy Heath / FOX 5)

"I had many people tell me they were scared to come out," said Addison Clapp. "That's outrageous that people are scared to speak out against police terror."

On Saturday, Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs was among the peaceful protestors. He said bringing in the National Guard was unnecessary as people hit the streets to demand change.

"The proper response to what happened in Memphis and what happened in Atlanta is conversation, not militarization," he said.

The Georgia chapter of the ACLU shared a similar message.

In a statement Christopher Bruce, the ACLU of Georgia Policy and Advocacy Director wrote: "We believe people in Georgia should be able to freely express their First Amendment right to protest the police violence that killed Tyre Nichols. The right to protest should not have to take place in a militarized environment. The ACLU of Georgia employed Legal Observers to ensure that people were indeed able to exercise their First Amendment rights."

The Governor's order says the state respects peaceful protests, but their concern is acts of violence.

While the Friday and Saturday protests have been peaceful, organizers believe the executive order was meant to silence them.

"We invite people here, people want to be here," Clapp said. "They're scared to be here because of that executive order, but they should come out because it's that kind of mass movement that can stop police terror."

FOX 5 reached out to Governor Kemp's office Saturday afternoon, but did not hear back.

Georgia vigil scheduled in Decatur for Tyre Nichols Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. (Supplied)

FOX 5 was told there is a vigil for Nichols scheduled for Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. at Decatur Square.