(CNN) — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms denounced vandalism in her city Friday evening as “chaos” after protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent.
“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is chaos,” an impassioned Lance Bottoms said at a news conference.
“A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city,” she said. “If you want change in America, go and register to vote. …That is the change we need in this country.”
The protests had started as peaceful Friday afternoon when crowds gathered in the Centennial Olympic Park. But by 6 p.m. ET, protesters began moving toward the front of the CNN Center, where police had gathered. Over the next few hours, the demonstration swelled as SWAT officers were called in to help with crowd control.
Later, protesters could be seen damaging CNN Center in downtown Atlanta, which is sandwiched between Philips Arena and Centennial Park.
In response, Mayor Bottoms, referenced CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who earlier Friday had been arrested — and then released about an hour later — while covering protests over Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“There was a black reporter who was arrested on camera this morning, who works for CNN. They are telling our stories, and you are disgracing their building,” she said. “We are no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We’re talking about how you’re burning police cars on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.”
Anger over the death of Floyd spilled over into multiple cities across the country after the former officer seen in a video with his knee on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with murder.
Demonstrators funneled their anguish in cities like New York and Washington into chants, signs and outbreaks of violence, smashing windows and setting vehicles ablaze.
“I am a mother to four black children in America, one of who is 18 years old,” Lance Bottoms said. “Yesterday, when I heard there were rumors about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do, I called my son and I said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I cannot protect you, and black boys shouldn’t be out today.’ ”
“So you’re not going to out-concern me and out-care about where we are in America,” she added.
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