Savannah mayor urges protests remain peaceful on Sunday

ByBradley MullisandBlair Caldwell|May 30, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT - Updated May 31 at 10:22 AM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Mayor Van Johnson spoke at a press conference on Saturday addressing protests scheduled for Sunday in Savannah.

The protests are part of the nationwide outcry after a video was released of a white Minneapolis Police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man suspected of forgery for eight minutes. That man, George Floyd, later died. Protests across the nation have led to the deployment of the National Guard in larger cities like Portland and Atlanta.

Those protests come in the wake of the killing in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot after being pursued by two white men while running in their neighborhood, and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that has thrown millions out of work, killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S.

The mayor urged peace ahead of Sunday’s demonstration, but business owners are already boarding their storefronts.

“While I understand the anger, the behavior is illegal, unacceptable, and creates more unfavorable interactions with law enforcement and takes the focus from where it needs to be: justice.”

While the mayor welcomes people to peacefully demonstrate, he says the hostess city will not tolerate violence and destruction.

“The City of Savannah recognizes as a city that has been here for quite some time that the peaceful ability of citizens to get together and protest," the Mayor said. "It does not say you can’t in the middle of a pandemic. People have a right to do that. We fully support that right. We can insist that it’s done peacefully. We can insist that it’s done in order. And we can insist that it’s done within confines of the law.”

Mayor Johnson says he spoke with Governor Brian Kemp today who offered support should the city need it and the city has an emergency order ready to institute a curfew if things get out of hand. Savannah Fire and Police Department have also devised plans, though no details have been shared.

“We will use this march to continue dialogue with our local law enforcement agencies,” he said. “To the residents of Savannah, Chatham County, and the surrounding areas, I’d like to welcome you to Savannah to participate in this peaceful protest.”

“Please note there is no need to bring milk,” Mayor Johnson said. “Milk is only good in cereal.”

Mayor Johnson has asked the city attorney to prepare an order to institute a curfew and says that he will not hesitate to act.

“It has to be more than just a moment of a protest it has to be the movement of what occurs after the protest," said Mayor Johnson. "And so for us, we’ll be creating an opportunity for our community to really have some courageous discussions that our law enforcement officers need to hear.”

Mayor Johnson wants Savannah’s protest to be an example. To not become violent and destructive, but bring about change and a stronger city

Photo: WTOC

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