Several hundred demonstrators who vowed to spend the night outside the Governor’s Mansion headed home shortly after midnight Tuesday when the protest’s organizers emerged from a meeting with city leaders and declared victory.
Their march had started near Lenox Mall hours earlier, with calls for justice and change in the aftermath of police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. It was the fifth night of protests in a row in Atlanta’s streets.
The protest organizers threatened to hunker down for the long haul, demanding to hear from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Police Chief George Turner. Gov. Nathan Deal, however, wasn’t home – he left Sunday for a trade delegation to Germany.
As midnight neared, the protesters called friends and sent texts seeking water bottles and food. Some vowed to stay until sunrise, though dozens of others left when word spread through the crowd that their cars could be towed.
One group chanted for food, medicine and water from the phalanx of police officers standing vigil on West Paces Ferry.
A small contingent hurled insults at the officers and the reporters gathered to document the standoff, and a few people with shirts featuring anarchist symbols paraded in front of the crowd, though the overwhelming majority kept the chanting peaceful.
Turner arrived near midnight Monday, shortly after a mobile command center parked in between the protesters and the police, and met with several of the protest organizers. He also had a clear message: “You’re not going to be out here all night. I guarantee that.”
Soon after, Reed arrived and met with several protesters inside the police van. When they emerged, one of the organizers announced the night was a “win” because Reed agreed to a lengthier meeting with the group on Monday morning.
“Obviously they have concerns about policing, and we managed to have a very substantive conversation about how they believe the police conduct themselves,” said Reed. “Tonight really was about listening and being open, and it is very important that you respect the energy they were putting into this. And so we will have a substantive talk on Monday.”