#AtlantaProtest2020 was not the #AtlForUs Protest

Editor’s Note: We published an earlier version of this story that was inadequate and substantially diminished. We added more information and important details into this story and have made the following changes:

  • The earlier version erroneously stated, “What was intended to be a civil, socially distant march metamorphosed into something else entirely in front of the CNN center”; the current version has been updated to reflect that “Unfortunately, a large crowd that gathered around the CNN center metamorphosed into something else” to indicate that another group had started to form, potentially separate from the protest.
  • The earlier version erroneously stated that the glass “shatter heard’ round the city” was “a little after 6:30 p.m.”; the current version has been updated to reflect the fact that this happened closer to 7 p.m.

“Rioting is the language of the unheard.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Friday May 29, 2020, organizers for #AtlForUs intended a peaceful protest and march to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. The plan was to meet downtown at Centennial Olympic Park around 3 p.m., rally up, then begin the march to the Capitol at 3:45 p.m.

At 4:20 p.m., the crowd held a brief moment of silence, then began marching back to Centennial Olympic Park around 5:30 p.m.

The original protest, which ended in Centennial Olympic Park around 6:30 p.m. was successful. The organizers said their final thoughts, prayers were exchanged, people hugged each other, and then the crowd dispersed. 

Unfortunately, a large crowd that gathered around the CNN Center metamorphosed into something else. The air shifted once someone threw a brick through a window of the CNN building. You could hear the shattering of the building’s thick glass

At Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, two 25-year-old's and their mom contemplate their signs and messaging before the march to the capitol.
Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth
Protestors hold visceral signs calling for the end of "white silence," police brutality and injustice at the start of their march in Centennial Olympic Park.
Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth
A masked demonstrator holds up the black power symbol, protesting the unequal treatment of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth

Law enforcement officers apparently boxed off the building’s entrance to the best of their abilities, but the numbers eventually overwhelmed them. At the same time that officers tried to shut down the CNN center, their vehicles were destroyed by protesters of all races, which resulted in one cop car catching fire. 

What do you do when every cry for change and peace are not heard? What do you do when your frustration from oppression boils out of control? 

Protestors march towards the State Capitol, decrying the deaths of black men whose cases have been unequally treated in the public eye.
Gabriel Ossa | Avant-Youth
A woman powerfully and defiantly stands in front of law enforcement officers in front of the Capitol, holding a sign: "No more pigs shooting down brothers."
Gabriel Ossa | Avant-Youth
Peaceful protestors march towards the capitol building. The protest was ignited when Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on the George Floyd's neck. Floyd later died.
Gabriel Ossa | Avant-Youth

The Shatter Heard 'Round the City

The Atlanta riot that occurred on May 29 materialized from the recent decades of pain and hurt Black people have suffered through seeing many of their own people murdered without justice. Rioting is a specific type of reactionary protest that materializes when more peaceful forms have been deemed inefficient or ineffective. While we do not condone violence, we do understand why these riots are occurring. 

Closer to 7 p.m., the shatter was heard ’round the city as people either took off to their homes or stayed. What followed thereafter became a night of chaos, violence, tear gas and fire – but more importantly felt – of utter rage and despair.

The city was loud with burglary and fire alarms alike going off, people screaming, gunshots firing into the sky and shouts of protest and tear gas grenades hissing.

Protestors of all backgrounds keep a watchful eye on the encroaching police blockade in downtown Atlanta.
Ricky Sweeting | Avant-Youth
A civilian car was set on fire during the protests near Centennial Olympic Park. Fire accelerants like gasoline was further thrown around the area, making the heat particularly extreme.
Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth
A protestor is unfazed as police begin to deploy tear gas into the crowd.
Ricky Sweeting | Avant-Youth
Black Lives Matter activist (#BLM) demands justice for black men dying during the May 29 riot.
Ricky Sweeting | Avant-Youth
Armored trucks, police in riot gear and SWAT secure the area so that firefighters may extinguish the fire set on three cars by rioters.
Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth
Looters ransack a gift shop in downtown Atlanta. The lights were even turned on.
Hagen McMenemy | Avant-Youth
Rioters destroy the windows of Del Frisco's Grille in Buckhead. Hagen McMenemy | Avant-Youth

The looting of businesses across Atlanta was rampant Friday night, as protestors of all races broke in and destroyed stores at Lenox Mall, Phipps Plaza and areas around downtown. Many people say that the riots aren’t helping anything. They’re right. 

However, many Black people do not care about being right anymore. Being “right” did not help Breonna Taylor when she was murdered in her own home by the police while she was sleeping. 

Combine the racial frustration with the COVID-19 pandemic that has millions unemployed, and you have chaos. 

Will the protests and riots end anytime soon? 

We don’t know, but we do know it’s possibile that if true justice is served for Ahmaud Arbery, Taylor and George Floyd, Black people may put some faith back into the system. True justice [in case people forget] is a fair trial and ultimately an actual conviction.

By about 12:10 a.m., the streets were clear of many rioters; the fires, extinguished. Every now and then you’d hear another thundering shatter of glass, an after-effect of broken building windows.

An ambulance siren or law enforcement horn would ring about twice an hour, but for the most part, Atlanta could sleep.

Though the rioters and looters were an unintended consequence from the protest itself, at least this much is ensured: Not only were they heard – loud and clear – they were felt, too.

An afternoon protest turns into a violent riot that ransacked different parts of Atlanta and most of downtown. A plume of smoke looms over the city.
Judith Y. Kim | Avant-Youth

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