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Increased police, National Guard dampen riots in Atlanta

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What began as a peaceful protest in downtown Atlanta Friday night, turned riotous as stores were looted, a police vehicle set afire and CNN Headquarters “tagged” with graffiti while an American flag was burned. Police reinforcements plus National Guardsmen helped quell violence on Saturday, with Sunday ending with fewer arrests.

While cities around the country saw an increase in violence and looting, Atlanta saw improvement. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp attributes containment of violence to his coordination with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and a strategy: “From the start, we worked with the mayor’s office and local law enforcement to provide assistance and support. At their request, I deployed the Georgia Guard and hundreds of law enforcement officials to key hotspots around the city,” according to a statement on the governor’s social media channel.

Consistent with what other mayors and governors are reporting across the nation, Kemp says that the peaceful protests have been infiltrated by agitators from other parts of the country. Sunday evening, Kemp told WSB, the local ABC affiliate in Atlanta, that “the first person they arrested was from Virginia. It shows that the people we are dealing with after the curfew are not people trying to demand justice but are people who have a different agenda.”

Protestors agree. “They were clearly not from Atlanta because Atlantans do not behave like that,” said Keith Barnett who has been a downtown resident for sixteen years and has participated in all three days of demonstrations. Mr. Barnett told American Wire, “Friday night, as I was walking back home I observed the other crowd coming in, that’s how I know they are not from here.”

The protests were centered from Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park to the CNN Center, the international headquarters of the cable news network, also one of the most heavily fortified positions. At approximately 8:30 p.m. Sunday, tear gas was deployed toward the crowd from the direction of the CNN Center, angering some protestors. Two women who fled the tear gas told American Wire, “Everyone was very peaceful, the tear gas was unnecessary.” One of the women, who requested not to be identified, said, “There is still more tear gas but no violence.” Both women suggested that police were “pushing back” to keep the crowds away from the CNN Center. Irony aside, critics of CNN say some of its anchors have stoked the protests that led to rioting. For example, primetime CNN anchor Don Lemon has called the protests-turned-riots “understandable.”  

President Trump’s national security advisor Robert O’Brien, in a series of interviews on Sunday, implied foreign influence on the rioting, referencing China’s gloating on social media, as well as interference by Russia and Iran. In Atlanta, as more arrests are made, authorities are attempting to learn more about the groups promoting violence and looting. As far as the peaceful protestors are concerned, they say the agitators are impeding their message while doing damage to their community.   

PHOTO: Associated Press

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