ATLANTA - Atlanta Chief of Police Erika Shields spoke to protesters on May 29 amid protests connected to the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
When confronted by a black woman concerned for her safety and the safety of others, Shields spoke on the use of police force and told the woman she had a right to be upset.
Protests in Atlanta turned violent on Friday night, with vandalism and arson reported. Shields told media “she would allow protesters to mass so long as they didn’t violate laws.”
“Let me tell you something, I am standing here because what I saw was my people face to face with this crowd and everybody’s thinking ‘how can we use force and diffuse this’ and I’m not having it. I’m not having that,” Shields said. “You have a right to be upset, to be scared, and to want to yell. And we’re going to have everybody doing what they need to do and we’re going to do it safely. That’s my first commitment. And I hear you.”
“I have heard from so many people that can not sleep, they’re terrified, they’re crying, they’re worried for their children – there’s a problem,” Shields continued.
Activists held protests in several major cities across the US after video circulated of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinning Floyd, a black 46-year-old, to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck on May 25. Floyd died soon after.
Chauvin, since fired by Minneapolis police, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29.
A second round of demonstrations is planned in Atlanta Saturday. Georgia's governor has ordered up to 1,500 members of the National Guard into the city to assist local law enforcement in keeping the peace.
Atlanta's mayor released a statement Saturday, condemning demonstrators' actions from the previous night and calling for non-violence.
"We as a people are strongest when we use our voices to heal our city instead of using our hands to tear it down," said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "We know our citizens are angry. We are angry and we want justice. If we are to enact change in this nation, I implore everyone to channel their anger and sorrow into something more meaningful and effective through non-violent activism."
Storyful contributed to this report.