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Thousands march in Atlanta demanding racial justice, police reforms

Protesters rallied during the "March on Georgia" sponsored by the Georgia NAACP in Atlanta on Monday. They demanded state legislators pass criminal justice reforms, repeal citizens arrest, ensure voting rights and end police brutality. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
Protesters rallied during the "March on Georgia" sponsored by the Georgia NAACP in Atlanta on Monday. They demanded state legislators pass criminal justice reforms, repeal citizens arrest, ensure voting rights and end police brutality. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

June 15 (UPI) -- Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Atlanta to the State Capitol on Monday following the death of Rayshard Brooks, an African-American man who was killed by a city police officer three days ago.

The event follows weeks of protests across the United States that were spurred by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis during an arrest on Memorial Day.

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Brooks, 27, died Friday after he was shot near an Atlanta fast food restaurant. Video from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation appears to show Brooks taking a stun gun from an officer, fleeing and attempting to shoot the stun gun at officers before he is shot.

Sunday, the Fulton County Medical Examiner classified Brooks' death a homicide and said he died of two gunshot wounds to the back.

RELATED Autopsy: Brooks died of two gunshot wounds in the back

The NAACP of Georgia organized the "March on Georgia" to urge state legislators -- returning to the Capitol for the first time in three months due to the coronavirus pandemic -- to approve a series of extensive reforms aimed at ending "systemic racism in the criminal justice system and voter suppression in Georgia."

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Protesters called on Georgia lawmakers to repeal the state's "Citizens Arrest" and "Stand Your Ground" statutes and oppose a measure to absolving the State Election Board of responsibility in ensuring Georgia counties comply with federal voting laws.

"We are going to take over the Capitol every single day until they do their job," the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, said at a rally before the march.

Lloyd Pierce, head coach of the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, said Floyd's death came as no surprise to him.

"I've seen it for 44 years as a black man in this country," he said, "and it's time now that we draw attention to that."

Pierce called for the repeal of the Citizen's Arrest statute, which has been on the state's books since the Civil War.

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Under the law, a private citizen can arrest someone if a crime is committed that the citizen has immediate knowledge of. It was cited by the three Georgia men accused in the vigilante-style slaying of Ahmaud Arbery in February.

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Brooks' widow, Tomika Miller, and other family members also held a news conference Monday in which they said they are hoping for something positive to come of his death.

"Rayshard has a family who loves him, who would have glad come and got him so he could be here with us today," said his niece, Chassidy Evans. "Not only are we hurt, we are angry. When does it stop? We are not only pleading for justice, we are pleading for change."

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