By RUSS BYNUM and ED WHITE, Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Anti-racism protesters on Saturday sought to call attention to the deaths of two more black men — one who was found hanging from a tree in California and another who was fatally shot by police outside an Atlanta restaurant. The Atlanta police chief resigned hours later.
Meanwhile in Europe, far-right activists scuffled with police in London and Paris as more Black Lives Matter demonstrations unfolded nearly three weeks after George Floyd, another black man, died at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer who pressed a knee to his neck.
Atlanta police were called late Friday about a man said to be sleeping in a car blocking a Wendy’s restaurant drive-thru. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was investigating reports that 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks failed a sobriety test and was shot in a struggle over a police Taser.
By Saturday evening, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that she had accepted the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields. The announcement came as roughly 150 protesters marched outside the restaurant. The mayor also called for the immediate firing of the officer who opened fire on Brooks.
“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force,” Bottoms said.
She said it was Shields’ decision to step aside and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role.
Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who gained national prominence running for governor in 2018, tweeted that “sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death.”
In Palmdale, California, hundreds of people marched to demand an investigation into the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller, who was found hanging from a tree early Wednesday near city hall. The protesters marched from where the body was found to a sheriff’s station, with many carrying signs that said “Justice for Robert Fuller.”
Authorities said the death appeared to be a suicide, but an autopsy was planned. The city said there were no outdoor cameras that could have recorded what happened.
European protesters sought to show solidarity with their American counterparts and to confront bias in their own countries. The demonstrations also posed a challenge to policies intended to limit crowds to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In Paris, police stopped protesters from confronting far-right activists who unfurled a huge banner from a building denouncing “anti-white racism.” The banner was partly torn down by residents in the building, with one raising a fist in victory.
A Black Lives Matter group in London called off a demonstration, saying the presence of counter-protesters would make it unsafe. Right-wing activists and soccer fans descended on the U.K. capital, saying they wanted to guard historical monuments that have been targeted by anti-racism protesters.
Many gathered around the statue of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph war memorial, which were boarded up Friday to protect them from vandalism. Officials feared far-right activists would seek confrontations with anti-racism protesters under the guise of protecting statues.
The statue of Churchill had been daubed with the words “was a racist.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Churchill a hero but acknowledged that he “sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today.”
Some activists threw bottles and cans at officers, while others tried to push through police barriers. The mostly white crowd chanted “England” and sang the national anthem while riot police on horses pushed them back.
A rally in Paris drew 15,000, led by supporters of Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody in 2016. No one has been charged in his death. Police fired tear gas and blocked people from marching.
An enormous portrait showed one face with images of Floyd and Traore. Banners strung between trees around Republique plaza bore the names of dozens of others who have died or suffered violence at the hands of French police.
Myriam Boicoulin, 31, who was born on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, said she marched because she wanted to be heard.
As a black woman living in mainland France, she said, “I’m constantly obliged to adapt, to make compromises, not make waves — to be almost white, in fact.”
“It’s the first time people see us,” Boicoulin said. “Let us breathe.”
Elsewhere, hundreds rallied in Prague for the second straight weekend in support of protests in the U.S. The event was organized by an informal group of Americans living in Prague, along with several Czech groups.
The threat of rain and lack of a permit limited the size of crowds in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, but an estimated 5,000 people still turned out to honor Floyd and remember indigenous Australians who have died in custody.
Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan had urged organizers to postpone the event, citing health risks from the coronavirus.
Hannah McGlade, a human rights lawyer and activist, rejected McGowan’s request and called for an independent investigation into indigenous deaths.
“They told us not to come. They told us to be silent. We will not be silent,” McGlade said.
White reported from Detroit. Associated Press writers Sylvia Hui in London and Arno Pedram in Paris also contributed to this report.
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