Protesters took to the streets Friday night to speak out against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, an African-American man, died May 25 in police custody after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis Police Department officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin and three other MPD officers involved in the incident have since been fired, and Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Protests erupted across the country, starting in Minneapolis before Chauvin was charged. In Atlanta Friday night, what started as a peaceful event ended with looting and damage centered around downtown’s Centennial Olympic Park.
“The Georgia Restaurant Association shares in the anger and frustration over the tragic death of George Floyd,” GRA chief executive officer said in a statement provided to Atlanta Business Chronicle. “We understand the need for people to express their outrage and sorrow over this and the seemingly endless number of such senseless deaths. And we wholeheartedly support the right to protest — peacefully, and as Dr. King so often and eloquently urged, non-violently. We join Mayor Keshia Lance Bottoms, Atlanta’s Black clergy and other leaders in denouncing the vandalism that occurred in Atlanta [Friday] night.”
As the protests escalated Friday night, Bottoms held an emotional press conference urging those causing the destruction to “go home.” The mayor’s speech drew national attention. Locally based rappers Clifford “T.I.” Harris and Michael “Killer Mike” Render also spoke at the press conference and pleaded for deescalation. Other local community and business leaders have since spoken out about the events.
Multiple restaurants, including McCormick & Schmick’s downtown and Del Frisco’s Grille in Buckhead, were damaged during the mayhem. In her statement, Bremer noted that the restaurants were already facing a difficult time. The novel coronavirus pandemic has cratered restaurant sales and forced owners to adapt.
“The restaurant industry has been devastated by the Covid-19 crisis,” Bremer said. “Many of our small businesses are owned by, employ and support minority families. Georgia has the most Black-owned restaurants in the United States; 29% of Georgia restaurants are Black-owned. The industry creates many pathways to success for Blacks, women, Hispanics and Asians.
“The restaurants that were vandalized [Friday] night had recently re-opened, had put many back to work and gave hope their employees could return to a more normal life. The acts of violence were senseless, counter-productive, and have created more obstacles to our recovery. We ask that our citizens respect and support the very businesses that are putting people back to work.”