Mayor Kasim Reed and APD Chief George Turner during the news conference.

Mayor Kasim Reed and Police Chief George Turner held a 45 minute news conference this afternoon ahead of tonight’s planned protests Downtown in the wake of two police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the sniper attack on officers last night in Dallas.

Turner said a repeat of last night’s blocking of the Downtown Connector and streets by protestors would not be tolerated. “People have to the right to peacefully protest, but if you choose not to be peaceful, we are prepared to respond,” Turner said.

He said officers would be out in force and expressed concern that the shooting deaths of five officers and wounding of others during last night’s protests in Dallas could have happened in Atlanta.

Reed also repeated that the “behavior around our freeways will not be tolerated.” He encouraged protestors gathering this evening at Centennial Park and the Center for Civil and Human Rights to “maintain the King-ian tradition of protest, which means respect the law.”

“Protest in a safe fashion and let police do their job,” Reed encouraged. “Everyone out protesting needs to treat each other civilly.”

Reed also pushed back on social media reports that the black man found hanged in Piedmont Park on the morning of July 8 was a lynching perpetrated by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Preliminary police and forensics reports have called the incident a suicide. “There were no signs of foul play and there is no evidence that the KKK was in Piedmont Park or distributing flyers,” Reed said.

The mayor said his decision to ask the FBI to partner on Piedmont Park investigation is not inconsistent with normal policy, nothing that the GBI works with the Atlanta Police Department to investigate any officer involved shooting. APD also released further details about the apparent suicide, including that the man was wearing earbuds and a backpack and that a trash can had been pushed next to the tree where the man was found hanging. You can read more at WSBTV.

Reed said the APD was prepared to respond faster to incidents, especially in the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris last November. He also noted that the APD was the largest it has been in the city’s history and he wants even more officers.

“I’m asking the public to look at the whole picture,” Reed said.  “Young people on social media, I’m a black man too. I know what it is to be a black man. It doesn’t mean you take your frustrations out by harming other people.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.