Hundreds of protesters descended on the Georgia state legislature to call for police reform in a march that came three days after a white police officer fatally shot a black man outside a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had organised the “March on Georgia” after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota last month. The focus of the demonstration expanded after Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot by a white officer in Atlanta on Friday.
The fatal shooting of Brooks came after Americans by the thousands had taken to the streets of cities across the country in recent weeks to protest against systemic racism and police brutality. Floyd and Brooks are the latest in a long line of black men killed by white police officers.
Erika Shields, the Atlanta police chief, resigned over the shooting on Friday night. The officer who killed Brooks, Garrett Rolfe, was fired after Keisha Lance Bottoms, the city’s mayor, called for his immediate dismissal. A second officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on leave, pending an investigation.
The incident occurred when police were called to a Wendy’s where Brooks was asleep in his car, blocking the drive-through lane.
Video of the incident showed Brooks complied in a friendly manner with the officers, who administered a breathalyser test. Brooks failed the test and offered to walk to his sister’s home, but the officers tried to arrest him. Brooks resisted and fled with an officer’s stun gun. He was shot in the back.
Critics have argued the officer had no cause to shoot him because the officers had already identified him and made sure he was not carrying a weapon.
His death has sparked more debate about the use of lethal force by police in questionable circumstances.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers from both parties have put forward proposals to reform policing practices. Last week, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced a measure that would ban police chokeholds, create a national registry to track police misconduct, make it easier for prosecutors to seek criminal and civil penalties for police abuse, and ban certain “no-knock” warrants, which allow officers to forcibly enter properties.
Republican senators are expected to present a bill on Wednesday. The GOP effort is being led by Tim Scott, the sole black Republican senator, who said it would include a national registry but emphasise more police training.
Donald Trump, who has been lambasted for his response to the nationwide antiracism protests, did not comment on the death of Brooks over the weekend. On Monday, he defended his record on race, saying he had done more in four years for “Black America” than Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, had done in 40 years.
Speaking to reporters in Atlanta, Brooks’ family thanked the public for their support and urged them to continue to be vocal about the case. Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow, said her husband was “looking down smiling” because his name would be remembered and would help bring attention to the need to address racism in America.
L Chris Stewart, a lawyer for the family, urged people not to attribute blame to Brooks for resisting arrest. He said many black men were nervous about being arrested, particularly after watching how Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.
Floyd, 46, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, even though he was restrained in handcuffs and lying on the ground surrounded by four police officers.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi