Gov. Kemp declares state of emergency, deploys National Guard over unrest in Atlanta

ATLANTA — Protests over the death of George Floyd took a destructive turn in downtown Atlanta on Friday.

The day started out as protesters peacefully marched from Centennial Olympic Park to the state Capitol, and then back. A rally was then held inside the park for a bit, but then things took a turn that ended up with a night of destruction throughout downtown Atlanta, and eventually other parts of the city.

Shortly before 5:30 p.m., some type of scuffle happened between a protester and an Atlanta police officer right outside the CNN Center along Centennial Olympic Drive.

[PHOTOS: Protests turn destructive as looters move through downtown Atlanta, Buckhead]

Police formed a barricade and kept protesters at bay for quite a while and then protesters took a destructive turn. Shortly after 8 p.m., protesters started smashing the doors of the CNN. Then they moved to parked police cruisers and began jumping on the cars, smashing the windows and eventually set a police cruiser on fire.

A short time later, protesters moved along Marietta Street and proceeded to smash windows and deface store fronts and other tourists attractions like the College Football Hall of Fame.

Protesters also lit several things on fire, including more police cruisers and parts of the visitor center in Centennial Olympic Park.

[READ: “If you care about this city then go home": Atlanta mayor, police chief call protests a disgrace]

Eventually, more officer in riot gear were deployed to the area around Centennial Olympic Park around 11:15 p.m. where they started shooting off smoke bombs to help disperse the protesters. While most of the protesters seemed to leave the area, Channel 2 Action News quickly learned that many of them headed to Buckhead, in the area around Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza.

The first reports that we were able to confirm that looting had happened was the AT&T store across the street from Lenox Square. Channel 2′s Carol Sbarge arrived at the store around 11:30 p.m. where she found the front door had been smashed out and police had surrounded the business.

Around this time, Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne learned from the Georgia National Guard that Gov. Brian Kemp had called them in to help keep the peace around parts of the city. Shortly after Winne reported the news on air, Kemp tweeted out the order.

Protester continued to loot businesses across Buckhead throughout the night and the early morning hours of Saturday. Channel 2′s cameras caught several being arrested throughout the evening, but so far, Atlanta police have not released how many people have been taken into custody.


3:54 a.m. Atlanta firefighters worked to put out a fire started in the back of a Target off Piedmont Road.

2:37 a.m.: Channel 2′s Matt Johnson says another AT&T store along Piedmont Road has been broken into an looted.

2:28 a.m.: Channel 2′s Matt Johnson said police are standing guard at the Shoppes at Buckhead, awaiting any possible looters.

2:10 a.m.: A large plume of smoke can be seen near the SkyView Atlanta Ferris Wheel in downtown Atlanta.

1:35 a.m.: Channel 2′s Nicole Carr just tweeted this video of people running out of the Lenox Market Place across the street from Phipps Plaza.

1:17 a.m.: Atlanta fire says they are responding to a possible fire at The Tabernacle downtown.

1:08 a.m.: Atlanta fire says fire is out at Del Frisco’s and protesters busted out windows of the fire trucks.

12:34 a.m.: Atlanta fire confirms they are responding to a fire at Del Frisco’s restaurant.

12:18 a.m.: Channel 2′s Matt Johnson tweeted video of looters at a Waffle House.

12:09 a.m.: Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne has learned up to 500 National Guard members are being called in to help with unruly demonstrators.

11:39 p.m.: Atlanta police confirm that some protesters have made their way to Buckhead and have looted the AT&T store across from Lenox Square.

11:26 p.m.: Police continue to push protesters back.

11:19 p.m.: Police are deploying tear gas to get protesters to out of the area.

11:01 p.m.: Protesters launched fireworks at police at the intersection of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Drive.

10:57 p.m.: Officers in riot gear have lined up in downtown.

10:30 p.m.: Gov. Brian Kemp has released a new statement:

10:29 p.m.: The Atlanta police helicopter is now flying over the scene of the destruction in downtown Atlanta.

10:09 p.m.: At least two cars have been start on fire and businesses damaged along Marietta Street near Centennial Olympic Park.

9:54 p.m.: Protesters have started another car on fire along Marietta Street

9:32 p.m.: Police deploy tear gas to break up protesters in downtown Atlanta.

9:19 p.m.: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms give impassioned plea for Atlanta protesters to go home.

8:59 p.m.: Channel 2′s Richard Elliot says APD has told protesters to disperse and some started smashing in more windows near the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Drive.

8:05 p.m.: Protesters have set a police cruiser on fire:

7:58 p.m.: Protesters have started jumping on police cars, smashing windows.

7:51 p.m.: Police started chasing after protesters after they said people started throwing things, shattering the glass doors of the CNN Center.

7:50 p.m.: We just got in this update from Atlanta police:

“We continue to monitor protestors on Centennial Olympic Park Drive near Marietta Street. The demonstration began peacefully with protestors marching from Centennial Olympic Park to the Capitol and back. Upon returning to Centennial Olympic Park, the majority of protestors entered into the park while a portion walked south on Centennial Olympic Park Drive where they surrounded an officer inside his patrol vehicle. Additional officers arrived and began to push protestors back away from the vehicle, which led to a number of scuffles between police and protestors and at least three arrests. One officer was pushed to the ground and sustained minor injuries. It does appear pepper spray was utilized several times during the confrontation. Currently, we are attempting to allow the protestors to continue with a peaceful demonstration. Officers have been subjected to water bottles, eggs and other items being thrown at them. However we remain hopeful this activity will cease and there will be no need for further arrests or clashes with protestors.”

7:33 p.m.: Channel 2′s Jorge Estevez just got done speaking with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms about the protests unfolding outside the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta.

7:13 p.m.: Protesters have climbed up on top of the CNN sign and started defacing it.

7:01 p.m.: Here are the police chief’s remarks from the scene of the protest:

Police Chief Erika Shields speaks from scene of protests

JUST IN: Police Chief Erika Shields says protesters can stay in the streets. "They have a right to be heard." Here is her full interview.

Posted by WSB-TV on Friday, May 29, 2020

6:41 p.m.: Channel 2′s Matt Johnson tweeted video of protesters being told they need to leave:

6:39 p.m.: Gov. Brian Kemp has released a statement about the protests in downtown:

6:32 p.m.: Police are now telling protesters they need to get out of the street or face arrest.

6:17 p.m.: Police continue to hold a barricade outside the CNN Center. Our reporters on the scene say it appears things are starting to calm down.

6:06 p.m.: CNN confirms to Channel 2 Action News that the CNN Center has been closed over the protests outside.

5:45 p.m.: At least one protester has been arrested.

5:33 p.m.: Tense moments are unfolding outside the CNN Center.

5:19 p.m.: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has released a statement about today’s march and protest:

“When lives and the conscience of this nation are at peril, we as a people are expected to exercise our Constitutional rights to peacefully assemble and have our voices heard. Atlanta embodies these values, and I encourage all who exercise these rights to remember Atlanta’s legacy of peaceful protest leading to progress.”

5:13 p.m. Protesters climb atop the statue of Henry Grady along Forsyth Street, yelling “I can’t breathe.”

4:54 p.m.: Protesters have started making their way back to Centennial Olympic Park

4:40 p.m.: Large crowd gathers at state Capitol

4:25 p.m.: Protesters arrive at the state Capitol

4:00 p.m.: Protesters have left Centennial Olympic Park to march toward the state Capitol:

3:41 p.m.: Protesters gather in Centennial Olympic Park:

Here’s the schedule of Friday’s protest

3 p.m.: Meet Centennial Olympic Park to make signs and distribute water

3:45 p.m.: Begin March to Capitol

4:20 p.m.: Protest/Brief Moment of Silence

5:30 p.m.: Begin march back to Centennial Olympic Park

Frustration felt across the country

African Americans across the country have voiced frustration about delays in the prosecution of each case.

“Everyone’s ready for a change, ready to get together,” Bambara said.

Recent Georgia demonstrations in Brunswick over Arbery's death have remained peaceful.


But even something as peaceful as bird watching turned into a racist encounter in New York’s Central Park recently.

“It was scary to watch,” said Jason Ward, a bird watcher here in Atlanta.

Ward worked with Christian Cooper, the man shown in a viral video. He asked a woman to put her dog on a leash and she responded by telling Cooper she would call police and accuse him of threatening her.

“To hear the trembling in his voice shed light on how precarious the interaction was,” Ward said, noting that he's been profiled several times for doing what he loves. He said you can't achieve equality by hiding.

“We should make sure that we're out there. We should make sure that our faces are seen out there. We should make this a more regular, common occurrence—black people enjoying outdoor spaces,” Ward said.

Bambara said she, and others who plan to demonstrate Friday, believe the stakes are too high to stay at home.

“I literally can’t breathe, can’t think, because I know at any time my life, or my brother’s or my friends’ life are in danger just because of the color of their skin,” Bambara said.

Local law enforcement officials react to George Floyd’s death

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields released a video on social media Thursday night addressing Floyd’s death.

“These officers didn't just fail as cops; they fundamentally failed as human beings,” Shields said.

The chief said that Atlanta police officers are trained never to apply force to the neck area. Chokeholds also are not allowed.