Atlanta activists, city leaders reach agreement on 5th night of protests
ATLANTA - It began as another night of protests in Atlanta Monday, something a weary city had seen for the four previous nights. But the night ended with a peaceful accord between Atlanta's mayor, flanked by the city's police chief, and protesters.
Demonstrations started around 7 p.m. at the Lenox MARTA station, but transit police soon told the protesters they needed to leave the property. And as seen for several nights now, the protesters began to march through city streets, this time through Buckhead.
The protesters did march for a time toward and past Lenox Square, sitting down several times in the middle of the roadway, but made no entry into the bustling higher-end retail complex.
Once again, they were met by Georgia state troopers, who have stood as a wall between the protesters and access to busy highways throughout several nights of protests. Since Friday, demonstrators have tried to shut down expressways, but have not been successful. Monday night was no exception.
As the night wore on, protesters continued to march down Peachtree Street where police began to arrest those who were not using sidewalks. More than a dozen protesters were seen by FOX 5's cameras being taken into custody. Their names and charges have not yet been released. But even with the arrests, the protesters continued to be relatively peaceful.
The arrests also did not deter marchers, who seemed up to this point by some observers, content to once again trek aimlessly through the city. That was until they turned onto West Paces Ferry Road. The crowd of several hundred protesters ended up holding a sit-in in front of the Governor's Mansion. State sources said Governor Nathan Deal is on a trip overseas in Germany.
A wall of Georgia state troopers and their vehicles lined the road in front of the Mansion. Police barricades and more officers arrived at the scene throughout the night.
Protesters had hoped for a long night, even ordering food, which was prevented from crossing the police perimeter established around the crowd.
The night took a dramatic turn around 11:15 p.m. when Atlanta Police Chief George Turner arrived at the scene, followed a short time later by Mayor Kasim Reed. Both city leaders had been expressing their respect for the protests over the past few days, but maintained there was a need to keep all citizens safe at the same time. Turner told FOX 5 News as he went into a specialized police van to meet with the protesters that he was there to listen to what the protesters had to say.
The parties emerged from the truck about 45 minutes later with the promise to meet next Monday morning for at least two hours on several community issues including the livability, affordability and safety of the city.
Both sides described the meeting as major progress after nearly a week of protests. Protest leaders praised the move as a victory in opening dialogue, something many other communities had not yet been able to achieve.
The city appears to be breathing a sigh of relief over its concerns that the nightly protests were taxing an already stressed police force. City officials had said that many officers had their days off revoked over the past five days and were working around the clock, in 12-hours shifts, to ensure the safety of the city amid the often uncertain nature of the protests. City leaders also admitted the response to the continued protests could not be sustained for many more days.
The summit between city leaders and protest organizers is scheduled for Monday from 9 to 11 a.m. It is not clear whether it will be open to the public or press.