As protests across the country erupt following the killing of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck while taking him into custody, a number of protests are planned this weekend in Chattanooga.
Floyd, 46, died after being handcuffed and pinned for several minutes beneath Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin's knee. A widely circulated video shows Chauvin, who is white, holding Floyd, who is black, down as Floyd complains he can't breathe.
Chattanooga police say they are monitoring the protests.
"Our only objective is to ensure the safety of all of our citizens, whether engaged in organized protests or not," said spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Eames.
By midday Saturday, a small group of protesters started gathering on the Walnut Street Bridge.
The planned protests emphasize peace on social media, but local black community activist and District 8 City Council candidate Marie Mott took to Facebook on Saturday to warn that activists need to take police "off the planet" if brutality ensues, citing several peaceful attempts at addressing police violence in Chattanooga over recent years.
"You have a right to defend yourself. We're tired of being peaceable, we're going to try, but nobody should be expecting that of us," Mott said on the video. "We can only take so much. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm interested in making sure my community knows how to shoot back properly. Shoot back. Fight back. Strike back."
Mott later told the Times Free Press that she wasn't intending to start any violence, but would defend protesters, regardless of what shape the movement took.
"The paramount thing is the safety of the protesters," she said after noting in a separate Facebook Live video that she would be organizing her own protest for Sunday afternoon. "Also, I'm not going to criticize if they get out of hand. We are frustrated, we are tired, and we can't be expected not to show that in our actions. And property is not more important than our bodies in our lives."
Mott's protest outside of the jail will be to demand a decrease in funding for the Chattanooga Police and for an improved oversight board.
While she's not setting out with malintent, Mott was critical of Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy, who recently gained national attention for condemning the actions of the Minneapolis officer who pinned Floyd to the ground while he fought for breath.
"I ain't going to watch nobody get killed in front of me, and I'm not getting ready to watch somebody get beaten in front of me and I told Police Chief Roddy that myself," she said, referencing an in-person conversation with Roddy. "I sat right across from Police Chief Roddy, who's taller than me, bigger than me, wider than me with a gun and three extended clips, pepper spray and a Taser, and I told him I told him two years ago, if I see one of your officers ... if I see them doing this in front of me, they ain't going to make it, and I might not make it either."
On Friday and into Saturday, demonstrators across the country marched, stopping traffic and in some cases lashing out violently at police as protests erupted in dozens of U.S. cities. In Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond, thousands of protesters carried signs that said: "He said I can't breathe. Justice for George." They chanted "No justice, no peace" and "Say his name. George Floyd."
In Atlanta, hours of peaceful protest in the city's downtown were followed by demonstrators suddenly turning violent, smashing police cars, setting one ablaze, spray-painting the iconic logo sign at CNN headquarters and breaking into a restaurant. The crowd pelted officers with bottles, chanting "Quit your jobs."
At least three officers were hurt and multiple demonstrators arrested.
It's unclear how large the demonstrations will be or what tone they will take, but Mott says it doesn't matter.
"Across this nation there's an overwhelming response, so I can't forecast the amount of people, and the amount of people don't matter," Mott said. "One person on their own accord resisting injustices that we see has power. The power is not in the numbers, the power is in the person taking a stand against injustice and that should matter more."
Here are the planned protests for this weekend:
— Remember George Floyd- A protest planned by citizen Evan Roan at 4 p.m., Saturday in Miller Park
— A peaceful protest scheduled by citizens Ruby Taylor and Sarah Wooden for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Walnut Street Bridge
— I CAN'T BREATHE! Justice for George Floyd- A peaceful protest scheduled for noon Sunday at the Walnut Street Bridge.
— Mott's protest scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday near the Hamilton County Jail
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.
Staff writer Meghan Mangrum contributed to this report
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