• Police: 24 arrested in downtown Atlanta protests

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - Events have escalated in Atlanta after a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    Protesters clashed with police Tuesday night, stopped traffic on the Downtown Connector and even vandalized a police car.

    The demonstrations first got out of hand when the protestors marched toward the connector. They got on the connector at Edgewood Avenue and that brought northbound traffic to a standstill.

    Atlanta Police said a total of 24 people were arrested. All but two were from metro Atlanta. Most were charged with disorderly conduct.

    Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that more than 1,000 people participated in the protests Tuesday night.

    “I fully support protesting, certainly among our young people, but you have to do it in a way that doesn’t place other people at risk,” Reed said.

    Channel 2 Action News had seven reporter and photographer crews on the streets.

    Around 11 p.m., Channel 2’s Rachel Stockman walked alongside protesters near the CNN Center on Peachtree Street.

    “It started down here on Peachtree. Everyone had a peaceful assembly at that time. From that point there were flags being waved. Officers emerged in, took the flags and threw them to the ground. This started an altercation. Four people were arrested at that time,” one witness told her.

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    In a news conference Tuesday night, Turner reported damage to a Meehan’s Irish Pub, a taxi cab and a Wells Fargo bank.

    He had a message for protesters.

    “I believe that we are better than what we’re seeing. The fact is if they are there, we will not leave our city unprotected. So we will be here to take care of our city,” Turner said.

    NewsChopper 2’s Jason Durden spent more than eight hours over the protest that started at the Underground earlier Tuesday. A group of about 50 people branched off and blocked the connector around 8 p.m.

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    That’s when chaos erupted.

    Durden showed a heavy presence of Atlanta police officers and Georgia State Patrol troopers. Turner said the protesters who truly had a desire to be peaceful are not the people on the streets.

    “No justice, no peace” was the chant heard from the crowd as they were saying as the police presence grew.

    Police officials told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri the activity is coming from splinter groups that have nothing to do with the earlier, peaceful protests.

    Along with 21 arrests, they’ve seen several reports of property damage, including damage to an Atlanta police vehicle that had its windshield broken.

    In a statement to Channel 2 Action News, protestors with the Atlanta-Ferguson Solidarity Committee said they are thankful for a turnout that left them in awe.

    [Read full statement from Atlanta-Ferguson Solidarity Committee]

    The statement said, in part:

    "We condemn the militarization of the police at last nights protest, and at the use of force by supposed “nonviolent” demonstrators against angry, frustrated youth in the crowd. We will be helping to coordinate further demonstrations in light of this immense tragedy."

    Viteri encountered several scenes throughout the city.

    Officers cleared protesters at Peachtree Street near Ivan Allen Boulevard as the crowd chanted for officers not to shoot.

    “Our young people are dying like flies for no reasons,” said Ray Wilkerson.

    “When you get frustrated and that frustration builds, it’s going to overflow,” one woman said.

    Channel 2 cameras captured police as they picked up a woman on Decatur Street and put her in restraints. The protests appeared to be winding down around midnight.

    Turner said all Atlanta police officers' vacations have been canceled in the case of more protests this week.

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