ATLANTA (Georgia) • Demonstrators shut down a major highway in the US city of Atlanta last Saturday and set fire to a Wendy’s restaurant where a black man was shot by police as he tried to escape arrest, an incident caught on video and sure to fuel more nationwide protests.
The unrest broke out after dark in Atlanta, where earlier in the day Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she had accepted the resignation of police chief Erika Shields over the death last Friday night of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks at the fast-food outlet.
Deputy chief Rodney Bryant, a black man, will serve as interim chief. The police department has terminated the service of the officer who allegedly shot and killed Mr Brooks, police spokesman Carlos Campos confirmed late on Saturday. Another officer involved in the incident has been put on administrative leave.
The authorities have not yet released the names of the two officers. Both of them are white.
Images on local television show the restaurant in flames for more than 45 minutes before fire crews, protected by a line of police officers, arrived to extinguish the blaze. By that time, the building, next to a petrol station, had been reduced to charred rubble.
Other demonstrators marched onto Interstate 75, stopping traffic, before police used a line of squad cars to hold them back.
“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Mayor Bottoms said at a news conference.
Mr Brooks was the father of a young daughter who was celebrating her birthday on Saturday, his lawyers said.
His death from a police bullet came after more than two weeks of demonstrations in major cities across the United States in the name of Mr George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died on May 25 under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
Street protests broke out in Atlanta near the scene of the shooting, with more than 100 people calling for the officers to be charged criminally in the case.
Police had earlier been called to the Wendy’s outlet over reports that Mr Brooks had fallen asleep in the drive-through line. Officers attempted to take him into custody after he failed a field sobriety test, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
Video images shot by a bystander capture Mr Brooks struggling with two officers on the ground outside Wendy’s before breaking free and running across the carpark with what appears to be a police Taser in his hand.
A second videotape from the restaurant’s cameras shows Mr Brooks turning as he runs and possibly aiming the Taser at the pursuing officers before one of them fires his gun and Mr Brooks falls to the ground.
Lawyers for the Brooks’ family told reporters that Atlanta police had no right to use deadly force even if he had fired the Taser, a non-lethal weapon, in their direction. “You can’t shoot somebody unless they are pointing a gun at you,” attorney Chris Stewart said.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr said in a statement that his office “has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident” while it awaits the findings of the GBI.
Meanwhile, the US embassy in the South Korean capital Seoul draped a huge Black Lives Matter banner on its building and tweeted a picture of it in support of the anti-racism campaign across the US.
“The US Embassy stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change.
“Our #BlackLivesMatter banner shows our support for the fight against racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to be a more inclusive & just society,” the embassy tweeted on Saturday.