Thousands of protesters returned to Downtown Atlanta on the afternoon of May 31 of a 9 p.m. curfew imposed for a second night by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Meanwhile, social media rumors of Buckhead protests circulated and the city announced the firing of two Atlanta Police Department officers for excessive force during the previous night’s protests and rioting.

MARTA announced it would suspend all rail, bus, streetcar and paratransit services at 9 p.m. on Sunday as part of the curfew extension. Riders should board their last train by 8:30 p.m.; all 38 rail stations will close at 9 p.m.

Sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, peaceful protests on May 29 and Ma 31 night ended in violence, looting, arson and vandalism in Downtown and Buckhead.

The Georgia National Guard and Georgia State Patrol joined APD officers to patrol the streets again on May 31 following a “zero tolerance” order by Chief Erika Shields. APD made 157 arrests on the night of May 30 alone.

On the evening of May 31, there was a heavy law enforcement presence Downtown and in Buckhead, where there were social media rumors of more protests at the Lenox Square mall. The National Guard has been using the Lenox Square parking lot as a staging area.

Bottoms and Shields held a press conference May 31 to discuss the curfew and announce that two APD officers had been fired for using excessive force during an arrest of two students on May 30. The incident was caught on video and widely circulated on social media, which showed five officers tasing a Morehouse and a Spelman student in their car after breaking its windows and slashing a tire. The other three officers have been assigned desk duty pending further disciplinary action.

“Excessive force is never acceptable,” Bottoms said.

Shields said she was “shocked” by the bodycam footage. “We have a responsibility not to escalate and cause harm or injury. I was shocked by the  video of how these college students were manhandled in their car. I knew there was only one option and that was to terminate these officers. I apologize to both of the students and how we behaved as an agency. It was unacceptable.”

Bottoms said an officer struck by a protester riding an ATV Downtown on May 30 was still in critical condition and hoped he would be able to walk again. The ATV driver was taken into custody.

Bottoms said she wanted to remind Atlanta of why the protests were happening because the message was being lost in the media coverage of the violence. “Our country is in upheaval because of the killing of African Americans by law enforcement across the country,” she said.

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.