ATLANTA - Even though she sensed trouble, Heather Upham said she still couldn't believe what was happening as she shot the video of an Atlanta Police officer body-slamming Amber Jackson to the ground outside Lenox Square Mall the night of Friday, May 29.
"As soon as I saw her move the barricade and I saw the police, my intuition told me it was going to be bad. Then, low and behold it happened so I started recording," Upham said reporters Friday as she stood outside the Buckhead mall.
"I was disgusted. This is exactly why we're out here, to protest all the brutality going on and this happens, over someone moving a barricade?" said Upham.
Like thousands of people that night, the Marietta woman started her evening in downtown Atlanta -- protesting police brutality following the death of George Floyd, then moved with a smaller crowd to Lenox Square after hearing there would be a demonstration there.
Atlanta Police say there were no demonstrations—only looters who officers were trying to disperse from the mall. Police cited Jackson with disorderly conduct, but she was not arrested. Her attorney said the car was searched, but nothing was found. “They weren’t there to loot. They were there to protest. They were trying to leave the area and that’s why Amber moved the barricade,” said Attorney Mawuli Davis.
"I did hear them tell her to get out of the car. They appeared to be cooperating as far as I could tell," said Upham, surrounded by supporters for 24-year-old Jackson.
The Marietta woman said she watched APD officers search the car in that night after Jackson moved the barricade and said Jackson never refused to leave the Buckhead mall--which is why she thought the officer's actions were unprovoked and excessive.
Last Friday, an APD spokesman released police bodycam video of the encounter and said Jackson refused the officer's orders to exit their car. Today, as Jackson underwent surgery for a broken clavicle, police confirmed the officer involved is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
"You're out here trying to make a change and you get body-slammed for it? And then you hear the officer call her stupid? It's not right," said the Marietta woman. On the video released by APD, an officer could be heard calling the 24-year-old “stupid”.
"You're sitting down and getting paid after body-slamming a 138-pound young lady and breaking her clavicle. And all you get is get desk duty? He should be fired and charged, but this is how the system protects police," said attorney Mawuli Davis.
With the calls for policing reforms and social justice across the country, Upham said she couldn't sit silent about what she saw two weeks ago. She said she gave the video to Jackson's attorneys so that it could be shared with others.
"As a young person and a white female, I need to let everyone know that I disagree with the actions of this officer and the officer in George Floyd's case," said Upham. “We should all be working together to make this situation better for all people,” she said.
Jackson's supporters said, in addition to the shoulder surgery she had today to insert two metal plates, she will have to have a follow-up procedure in several months.
They are raising money to help the dental hygienist cover her medical expenses. You can find more information at HelpAmber.com