• Thousands march in Atlanta to protest police shootings

    By: JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., Associated Press

    ATLANTA (AP) — Several thousand demonstrators flooded the streets of downtown Atlanta on Friday to protest recent police shootings of African-Americans.

    Marchers brought traffic to a standstill downtown after gathering at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights near Centennial Olympic Park. Drivers in cars honked their horns as protesters holding signs and chanting "hands up, don't shoot" streamed beside them.

    Francys Johnson, the state president of the NAACP, led the rally, which was organized by his organization and Black Lives Matter. He stood on the front line, arms locked with other protesters including radio personality Frank Ski.

    "We're in critical times of our country," Johnson said. "We are in a defining moment. We have experienced bloody conflict the past couple days. This march is to eradicate racism."

    Before the march, Ski urged young people in attendance to learn their history and vote in elections. He said more need to make their voices heard about gun control at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

    "We have to vote to make change," he said. "It starts there."

    Nidal Kram, 26, who is from Sudan, held up a sign that read, "I left One War Zone to Come to Another." She felt compelled to attend the demonstration in an effort to have her voice heard.

    "It's still a struggle," said Kram, who's lived in Atlanta for 16 years. "I have a fear for myself. I want to one day have children in America, but I have fear of bringing them into a world filled with so many injustices to black people. I'm scared. I hope marches like this are a starting point to make a change."

    Atlanta police Chief George Turner and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said earlier in the day that people have the right to protest this weekend but urged them to cooperate with law enforcement. Images from local news helicopters showed a peaceful march.

    The police chief said his officers are being told to stay "vigilant and professional" after the Dallas shooting that killed five officers and wounded seven others.

    A gunman shot the Dallas officers and two civilians during a peaceful protest Thursday night, authorities said. The protests erupted over the recent shootings of black men by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.

    The Atlanta march started at the park, moved down the city's popular Peachtree Street and to CNN Center. A number of NAACP members gave directions.

    Numerous state trooper patrol cars and Atlanta Police Department officers blocked an entrance ramp to Interstate 75/85 where a portion of the protesters tried to enter the highway. At one point, protesters jumped onto a semitrailer that had driven into the area.

    Reed joined the crowd there later and, invoking the name of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., told protesters he respected their First Amendment rights to protest but wanted to keep them safe, so he would not let them move onto the freeway.

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