There was an outburst of violence in Atlanta on Friday night during protests over the death of George Floyd, who was killed on Monday while in Minneapolis police custody, prompting nationwide demonstrations. Protesters clashed with police outside the CNN Center and destroyed a police car and other property in the area. In response to the unrest, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave an impassioned speech in which she fought back tears while speaking about her own personal reaction to Floyd’s death, her 18-year-old son, and why she thought any Atlantans taking part in the violence were disgracing both Floyd’d life and the city’s majority-black community.
Watch what she had to say here, or read the transcript below:
A transcript of the mayor’s remarks:
Let me just speak to what is happening here today.
Above everything else, I am a mother. I am a mother to four black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old. And when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt.
And yesterday when I heard there were rumors about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do, I called my son and I said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I cannot protect you and black boys shouldn’t be out today.’ So, you’re not going to out concern me and out care about where we are in America. I wear this each and every day, and I pray over my children, each and every day.
So what I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest, this is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., this is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.
So, if you love this city, this city that has had a legacy of black mayors and black police chiefs and people who care about this city, where more than 50% of the business owners in metro Atlanta are minority business owners, if you care about this city, then go home. And pray that somebody like Reverend Beasley will come and talk to you and give you some instructions on what a protest should look like, and how you effect change in America.
This police chief [Atlanta police chief Erika Shields] made a video yesterday — pull it up on YouTube — where she said she was appalled to watch the murder of George Floyd. This woman did that.
You’re not honoring a legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. You are not protesting anything running out with brown liquor in your hands, breaking windows in this city. T.I., Killer Mike owned half the West side, so when you burn down this city, you’re burning down our community.
If you want change in America, go and register to vote. Show up at the polls on June 9th. Do it in November. That is the change we need in this country.
You are disgracing our city, you are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country. We are better than this. We are better than this as a city, we are better than this as a country. Go home. Go home.
In the same way I can’t protect my son yesterday, I cannot protect you out in those streets. You are throwing knives at our police officers, you are burning cars. You have defaced the CNN building. Ted Turner started CNN in Atlanta 40 years ago because he believed in who we are as a city. There was a black reporter who was arrested on camera this morning, who works for CNN. They are telling our stories. And you are disgracing their building.
This is not the legacy of civil rights in America. This is chaos, and we are buying into it. This won’t change anything, we are no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We are talking about how you are burning police cars on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.
This post has been updated to include the transcript of Mayor Lance Bottoms’s speech.