In the early evening of Sept. 23, protesters began to gather in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta over the death of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville EMT shot by police at her apartment in March. The protesters were upset by the lack of charges brought against police related to her death. Only one officer was charged in the raid that caused Taylor’s death: wanton endangerment charges for firing into a neighboring apartment in the no-knock warrant raid.
The death of Taylor has sparked nationwide protests over the past few months, as the larger Black Lives Matter movement has grown since the death of George Floyd in late May. Protesters in Atlanta began to march around 7:30 p.m., initially with an unclear target.
Over the next two hours, protesters walked over a total of 5 miles in downtown Atlanta, repeatedly walking from Woodruff Park to different areas; from Centennial Olympic Park to the AmericasMart, to the state Capitol building. Protesters, arriving around 8:45 p.m. found Georgia National Guard units along with Georgia State Patrol officers surrounding the building.
While the group of about 250 protesters approached the building, shaking fences and yelling at law enforcement on site, Georgia State Patrol officers began to use less-than- lethal rubber bullets on protesters. Soon after, protesters began to head back towards the Woodruff Park area. Eventually reaching Peachtree Street, protesters began to argue within themselves about where to head next, some arguing for going towards CNN and the police precinct within the building, the site of protests in May and June, while others argued for heading back to the capitol area. Within a few minutes, the group was moving once again, heading back towards the capitol area.
Once they arrived at the capitol for a second time, things were different than they had been only about 45 minutes earlier. BearCats, large militarized SWAT-type vehicles, moved onto the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE and Courtland Street, where they began to move protesters onto the sidewalk. In response, about two dozen protesters sat on the ground, creating a line of bodies in front of the vehicle.
As Georgia State Patrol officers began to exit the vehicle, one got snagged on the door, dropping his radio and a tear gas canister that went off. An officer proceeded to kick the cannister into the crowd, where protesters continued to sit.
From the state capitol side of the fence, an officer announced that it was an unlawful demonstration, and with Atlanta Police officers arriving on the scene, police began to forcefully push protesters onto the sidewalks. Those who refused, including those sitting on the ground in front of the BearCat, were arrested. More than a dozen were arrested, many forcefully thrown to the ground by police officers in the process. Throughout the evening, Georgia State Patrol used rubber bullets to try and disperse the crowd, in addition to tear gas which was blown back into the face of officers by a protester using a leaf blower.
This protest was the largest action in months, most comparable to actions in the wake of Rayshard Brooks’ death in June. While many of the protests early in the summer saw some limited violence, looting and property damage, protesters Wednesday night remained peaceful throughout the evening, with the most violent aspect being protesters shaking the fence that has been placed on the steps of the capitol. While police have responded to many peaceful protests with dispersal orders and less-than- lethal weapons, from tear gas to the rubber bullets, at the capitol, Wednesday night represented the largest amount of arrests and forceful response from law enforcement in the city in months.
- Breonna Taylor
- Black lives matter
- Centennial Olympic Park
- George Floyd
- Woodruff Park
- Louisville EMT
- Georgia State Patrol
- Georgia National Guard
- Peachtree Street
- Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE
- Courtland Street
- tear gas
- Atlanta Police
- rubber bullets
- Rayshard Brooks
- Local News
- Nathan Posner
- Atlanta Protests