A noisy late-night protest was planned for Buckhead on June 18, with an organizer saying the goal was to make for a sleepless night at the Governor’s Mansion and leverage a meeting with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The neighborhood’s status as an example of racial and economic inequality is another message of the protest, the organizer said.
“The whole goal is, we’re trying to make as much noise [as it takes] to get [Gov. Brian] Kemp to at least come outside. We want him to hear us out,” said the organizer, who declined to give his name.
The protest is part of those nationwide focused on racism and policing in the wake of last month’s police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and many other black people around the country, most recently including Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.
The protest was planned to assemble at 11:30 p.m. at the West Paces Ferry Road shopping center at the intersection with Northside Parkway, with the march starting at 12:30 a.m. and going the roughly 1.75 miles down West Paces to the Governor’s Mansion.
“No sleep for Kemp!” read a social media post calling on people to attend. “Bring things to make noise!!! Pots, pans, air horns, etc… Let’s give them a night to remember.”
The organizer said he has been involved in arranging other recent protests, including one June 16 at Stone Mountain Park. He said he organized a similar noisy protest June 12 with about 75 people outside the Governor’s Mansion, and that protesters were eventually told to leave after Kemp complained. The protests are planned as peaceful and have remained that way, he said.
The June 18 protest had a more particular tactic of drawing out Bottoms by pressuring the governor. “For this one, mainly it’s to have a talk with the mayor,” the organizer said. “Because just trying to go to the mayor, she does everything possible to avoid us. She goes out of back entrances, hidden hallways — she will not come to face the crowd, unless she has to. So in order to get to her, we gotta get to him.”
That tactic worked for other Black Lives Matter movement protesters in 2016, when a nighttime march through Buckhead ended with protesters refusing to leave the Governor’s Mansion until then Mayor Kasim Reed met with them. Reed and then Police Chief George Turner both met with protest organizers in a police vehicle on the scene.
The organizer said that the Governor’s Mansion is not the only reason the protesters are coming to Buckhead.
“It’s a message to the neighborhood, because you have a lot of people who live in those houses who think that they’re so better than a lot of people who are not able to live like them,” he said.
“The point of these marches when you come to neighborhoods like that is to make as much noise as you can, and also get out the message that how they live their lives compared to ours — they’re wrong,” he added. “We’re not saying there’s … [something] wrong with having a lot of money, having a nice house. The message we’re trying to deliver is that, don’t think you’re better than us because you’re white and you had all this kind of schooling, this kind of education, this kind of money…”
The Buckhead protest comes on the eve of what may be a weekend of large-scale protests following the June 12 police killing of Brooks at a fast-food restaurant in Peoplestown. Brooks fell asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane and was accused of DUI. After he took a Taser from one officer, police shot him as he fled. The explosively controversial case led to the resignation of former Police Chief Erika Shields, a murder charge against the officer who shot Brooks, and large protests during which the restaurant was burned down. A large number of Atlanta Police Department officers reportedly called out June 17 in apparent protest of charges against the officers involved in the Brooks killing.
The organizer of the June 18 Buckhead protest said the Brooks case reinvigorated protests for civilians and now the police themselves. After weeks of protests, the demonstrations had become quieter, he said.
“But with this most recent incident with Rayshard Brooks being killed, in a predominantly black neighborhood at that, it ruffled a lot of feathers, so it started back up a lot of protests,” he said. “Now you see the police are trying to do their own little protest of not calling in… You know the police are feeling the heat… They can’t get away with as much as they could before.”
Since the Floyd protests began in May, Buckhead has seen several demonstrations, including by students and alumni of private schools and marches by residents. On the first night of the protests, May 29-30, the neighborhood also saw looting, rioting and arson that spun out of massive and largely peaceful protests Downtown.