(GA Recorder) – Georgia law enforcement officials are on high alert this week to pre-empt a jury’s verdict on the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on charges of the 2020 death of George Floyd.
The Atlanta Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies are preparing for further protests against violence against black people following demonstrations in Atlanta and across Georgia reached a fever level last year.
Thousands of people took to the streets in 2020 after the cell phone recording was released of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck until his death. In response to the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a black man was followed by three white men on a street in Brunswick where he was fatally shot.
While the Minnesota district attorney has described Chauvin’s trial as a tragic case of an overzealous cop, for many others the case is yet another litmus test of whether white cops will be held accountable when charged with crimes against blacks.
The jury’s deliberations began Monday evening after days of testimony containing defensive arguments that Floyd may have died of heart disease or a drug reaction Chauvin refuses to testify. The trial began on March 29th.
Chauvin is charged with accidental second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter. He could be convicted on all charges, some or none.
Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant said Monday that while the department has seen no signs of serious threats of violence, its command staff are still monitoring the situation.
“We will continue this from the date of deliberations to the full completion of the process to ensure that we are consistent across our city and can respond to all law enforcement-type calls,” Bryant said during a press briefing outside police headquarters Monday .
Georgia public safety authorities are trying to avoid some of the confrontations that have occurred over the past year, including the controversial arrests of two college students by the Atlanta police officer and the death of Atlanta’s Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot, after wrestling with officials.
Bryant was named interim chief after Chief Erika Shields resigned after Brooks’ death.
If last year Late spring peaceful protests in Atlanta sparked nightly riotsGovernor Brian Kemp called the National Guard to protect Atlanta property, which resulted in tense moments.
Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose said he expected the crowd in downtown Atlanta to increase regardless of the outcome of the chauvin case. Rose said he was concerned that large numbers of officials coming out could create an emotional hotspot.
“It could absolutely affect people’s behavior, and unfortunately one outbreak can cause another outbreak,” Rose said. “And that’s why we really have to worry about the presence of the police, especially if the verdict isn’t fair.”
Bryant said his officials are better equipped for demonstrations this time around as constant communication between law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels increases early on.
Talks began last week to develop a strategy for how the outcome of the process could stimulate street demonstrations.
“In the city of Atlanta, we pride ourselves on supporting people who have the right to demonstrate,” said Bryant. “We have demonstrations and protests in the city almost every day, and many of them are proceeding very peacefully.
“We expect there will be peaceful protests … but we will also recognize that there are times when there will be civil unrest and we are prepared for that too,” added Bryant later.
Chauvin’s trial is not just about doing justice to Floyd’s family, it is also about opposing the racism and police brutality that have emerged throughout the nation’s history, Rose said.
“We claim that Derek Chauvin is wrong and that he should be punished, but the system produces Derek Chauvin,” he said. “There are other situations in which black men and women are killed.
“So I’m confident this outcome is fair, but I think America definitely needs to speak up,” said Rose. “It should be peaceful. I think we should come up and say, “Yes, we agree”, judgment, or “No, we disagree,” but we shouldn’t be silent. “
Last year’s riots also prompted Kemp to order the installation of a security fence around the Capitol grounds to fend off unruly protesters who were getting too close to the building or officials.
This year’s legislative session began on January 11th with armored vehicles and a much larger than normal number of state troops and police officers protecting the grounds after a far-right mob stormed the US Capitol in a deadly riot on January 6th.
So far, workers have erected about 25% of the 8-foot metal fence with the aim of completing the project in early June, according to the Georgia Building Authority.