By Joe Johnson
In the wake of protesters being tear-gassed and shot at with projectiles during last weekend’s “World Without Cops” demonstrations downtown, Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz on Saturday called for a review of the Athens-Clarke County’s use of force policies.
The policies are for how officers not just respond to protests, but also when making arrests.
Cities across the country are planning similar reviews, like in Minneapolis, where on May 25 police killed a black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck while he was in custody for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill.
Floyd's death was just the latest in a series of unarmed black people being killed by police, and it sparked protests in Minneapolis and throughout the country, including in Athens.
“It is clear that a range of alternatives existed to use of tear gas and bean bag charges, and that those should not have been deployed, and should never be used on peaceful protesters,”Girtz posted on his Facebook page. “Whether 1/50 or 10/50 were dangerous, we need to be focused differently on peaceful individuals from dangerous ones. A use of force review is necessary.”
The mayor added, “The heightened tensions around the country that have been experienced in the last two weeks, with violent actors infiltrating righteous civil action, has put everyone on edge and thrown us off our game, but we have to be a model city in Athens.
“Our on-the-ground communication (as well as after-events) should have been better, creating a safer situation for all,”Girtz said. “I look forward to improvements today and tomorrow and beyond, and continued work toward initiatives that will provide foundational improvements for the lives of all Athenians. I cannot claim this government is perfect, but we will learn from our mistakes.”