Thousands of people were marching on the Georgia state capitol on Monday, chanting ‘we are done dying’.
The protesters marched from the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in downtown Atlanta to the State Capitol, demanding new laws as the session reconvenes after halting due to novel coronavirus concerns.
The protest came after the fatal shooting of a black man named Rayshard Brooks by a white police officer in Atlanta on Friday night.
The new killing came only two-and-a-half weeks after the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Atlanta shooting sparked further public outrage over the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of US law enforcement.
Various speakers addressed the crowd, urging lawmakers pass legislation ending immunity for police officers and citizen’s arrest laws.
“We are going to take over the Capitol every single day until they do their job,” the Rev. James Woodall, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) told the crowd.
Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce also addressed the rally. “I was born a black man. And I know one day I’ll die a black man, just as a lot of our players and coaches are on the stage,” Pierce said. “But I don’t want to die because I’m a black man,” he said.
Georgia’s prosecutors said they were weighing bringing charges against the police officer who shot dead 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot on June 12.
“If that shot was fired for some reason other than to save that officer’s life or to prevent injury to him or others then that shooting is not justified under the law,” Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard said.
The officer, Garrett Rolfe, has been dismissed from the force and Atlanta’s police chief resigned following the shooting.
Earlier, George Floyd’s May 25 death sparked a wave of protests for racial justice across the United States amid calls for police reform.
Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia who is under consideration as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, said Brooks’s shooting was a “murder.”
“The decision to shoot him in the back was one made out of maybe impatience or frustration or panic, but it was not one that justifies deadly force,” Abrams told CNN. “It was murder.”
Tomika Miller, Brooks’s wife, told “CBS This Morning” that Rolfe and the other officer who was on the scene should go to jail.
“If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail,” Miller said. “He would be doing a life sentence. They need to be put away.”
Brooks was shot while running away after a scuffle with the two officers which was caught on video.
The autopsy report said he died of two gunshot wounds in the back.
A Look At The Crowd
The vanguard of thousands of marchers has arrived at the Georgia Capitol as lawmakers convene inside for the first time in months to debate, among other issues, the passage of a hate-crimes measure. — Greg Bluestein (@bluestein)
Shanell Hanson of Atlanta had never marched at a protest before. But she brought her sons David, Aden and Jordan to Monday’s march to the Georgia State Capitol. “I have three sons. I’m afraid for their lives,” Hanson said. “Enough is enough.”
Jawan Olajuwon, a social studies teacher, was among the demonstrators with this placard to demand a hate-crimes law. “Every time we look up, another black man is getting killed over something senseless. But this is just a start. We need more effective police training overall.”
Tonya Wideman of Douglasville was also among those attending the rally. “I think they think we’re targeting the police. There are a lot of good cops. I have police in my family. This is about police brutality.”
‘We Are Done Dying’
Floyd, 46, died when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, triggering a wave of civil unrest unseen in the United States since the 1968 assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
Police reform has been one of the most persistent demands of protestors who have taken to the streets of US cities and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that she was setting up a working group to review the use of force by police.
Lightfoot said the goal would be to “create better policies and better training for our officers so that we can empower them to address situations appropriately and prevent any excessive use of force incidents.”
In California, police unions in San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles condemned Floyd’s death and pledged to reform their policies on use of force and root out racist officers.
‘Defund The Police’ Demand
Some activists on the left have taken up “defund the police” as a rallying call, one that US President Donald Trump has jumped on to use as a cudgel against his Democratic rival for the White House, Biden.
Biden, for his part, has tried to distance the party from the defund movement, instead advocating increased funding for community policing.
Brooks’s death came after police responded to a complaint that a man was asleep in his car, blocking the drive-thru lane at the Wendy’s.
Brooks allegedly failed a sobriety test administered by police, and when the officers tried to arrest him, a struggle broke out.
Brooks grabs one of their Tasers, shoots it wildly at officer Rolfe as he runs away and is shot in the back.
The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks, a father of four, died was set on fire by protesters on Saturday.