Atlanta/Washington, Jun 15 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people took to the streets in Atlanta on Monday to protest the death three days earlier of another African American man at the hands of a white police officer, with the victim’s family demanding justice and changes in police procedures and protocols.
The so-called “March for Justice” proceeded peacefully outside the Georgia capital in downtown Atlanta to – organizers said – urge lawmakers to immediately confront and deal with systematic failures in the penal justice and electoral systems.
The march was convened by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and it began at the Richard Russell federal building with marchers making their way to the state capitol.
Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot to death while fleeing two police officers after struggling with them in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot in Atlanta last week.
“The trust that we have in the police force is broken,” his niece Tiara Brooks told a press conference called by the family, adding “The only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change in the police department.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) said that two police officers were called to the Wendy’s restaurant – which had been set on fire last week amid protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white Minneapolis cop – because Brooks had fallen asleep in his car, which was blocking the drive-through lane.
Body camera footage released by the police department shows the officers administering a sobriety test to Brooks, which he failed, and then trying to handcuff him, and security cam footage shows them struggling with him until he manages to grab one of the officers’ tasers, appears to punch one of them and then bolts.
During the chase, Brooks was shot in the back by one of the officers and his death was ruled a homicide on Sunday by the Atlanta medical examiner.
The white officer who fired at Brooks has been identified as Garrett Rolfe, and he has been fired by the police department.
Atlanta police chief Erika Shields also resigned over the incident.
The demonstration comes as the Georgia General Assembly, which has been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, resumed its work.
Attending the march were several Democratic state lawmakers along with numerous black leaders and other personalities.
At the end of the protest, about 100 people blocked some of the streets in downtown Atlanta, although no violence or arrests were reported.
Meanwhile, the Brooks family held a press conference on Monday where they, along with their lawyer, Justin Miller, demanded justice and changes in the police force.
“On June 12, one of our biggest fears became a reality,” said Brooks’ niece, Chastity Evans. “Not only did we lose another black unarmed male. This time, it landed on our front doorstep … No one walking this green earth expects to be shot and killed like trash in the street for falling asleep in a drive-thru.”
Family attorney Miller said that non-whites in the US have been afraid of police encounters “since birth.”
“So that’s a trauma that’s deep,” he said. “It’s not something that just started two months ago.”
According to CNN, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to establish a national certification system and database so that excessive uses of force by police can be tracked and monitored.
In addition, the order is expected to contain a statement acknowledging that some police departments have misused their authority, thus creating distrust within specific communities, along with a directive to the secretary of Health and Human Services encouraging police departments to incorporate suggestions from mental health experts on how to better deal with the public.
According to the unidentified source discussing this executive order, the order will be “modest” in scope and responsibility for more significant reform will rest with Congress.