As crime rates rise in Atlanta, surrounding neighborhoods consider creating a new city

Mark 13:12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”

Important Takeaways:

  • In Atlanta’s Buckhead Neighborhood, Rising Crime Fuels Move to Secede
  • In increase in violent crime has spurred a movement in Atlanta’s wealthiest and whitest neighborhood, Buckhead, to push harder to secede and create a new city with its own police force.
  • Bill White, chief executive of the committee pushing Buckhead cityhood, said Atlanta hasn’t done enough to stem violence, car-thefts, drag-racing and other crimes that surged beginning in 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic and after civil unrest followed Black Lives Matter protests.
  • “They really don’t care about Buckhead,” Mr. White, said about city officials. “They just want the money.”
  • Atlanta had 158 homicides in 2021 and 157 in 2020, compared with 99 in 2019, according to the Atlanta Police Department
  • The crime “makes me want to move to the suburbs,” said Evita Alexander-Esteves.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Biden and Harris shifting focus of Georgia trip after Atlanta shooting rampage

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were planning to promote the newly enacted $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package when they visited Georgia on Friday, but a deadly shooting rampage in the state has changed their plans.

A 21-year-old man has been charged with murdering eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at three spas in and around Atlanta on Tuesday, rattling Asian Americans already grappling with a rise in hate crimes directed at them since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Biden and Harris will meet community leaders and state lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community to hear concerns about the killings and discuss a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday.

Investigators said the suspect, an Atlanta-area resident who is white, suggested that sexual frustration led him to commit violence. Numerous political leaders and civil rights advocates have speculated the killings were motivated at least in part by rising anti-Asian sentiment.

Biden has also directed White House officials Cedric Richmond and Susan Rice to engage with the community, Psaki said, and supports recent legislation calling for an expanded Justice Department review of COVID-19-related hate crimes.

Given recent events, “the president and the vice president felt it was important to change the trip a little bit and offer their support and condemn the violence,” a White House official said.

Biden ordered the U.S. flag flown at half-staff at the White House to honor the victims of Tuesday’s shootings.

The Democratic president kicked off the “Help is Here” campaign on Monday to promote his promise of “shots in arms and money in pockets,” after signing the COVID-19 relief bill into law last week, which includes $1,400 stimulus payments to most Americans. Biden has visited Pennsylvania and Harris has been to Nevada and Colorado to tout the benefits of the relief package.

Biden and Harris on Friday will also visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to receive an update on the pandemic.

They plan to meet as well with Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, whose get-out-the vote efforts are widely credited with helping Biden carry the state last November and Democrats win two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia this year that gave them control of the chamber.

A bill passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia House of Representatives this month would restrict ballot drop boxes, tighten absentee voting requirements and limit early voting on Sundays, curtailing traditional “Souls to the Polls” voter turnout programs in Black churches.

Republicans across the country are using former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election to back state-level voting changes they say are needed to restore election integrity.

“Voting rights is something that is on the minds of everyone on that trip,” the White House official said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Peter Cooney)

Government health experts warn U.S. cities of ‘trouble ahead’

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House health experts are warning of an uptick in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in U.S. cities including Boston, Chicago and Washington, urging local leaders to maintain health safety measures to avoid a surge.

“This is a predictor of trouble ahead,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Thursday.

Fauci was asked on CNN about comments made by his White House coronavirus task force colleague, Dr. Deborah Birx, identifying new areas of concern in major cities, even as authorities see encouraging signs across the South.

Baltimore and Atlanta remain at a “very high level,” as well as Kansas City, Portland, Omaha and California’s Central Valley, Birx told state and local officials in a telephone call Wednesday. A recording of the call was obtained by the journalism nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.

White House data shows small increases in the percentage of positive COVID-10 tests in Chicago, Boston and Detroit and those places need to “get on top of it”, Birx said.

Even in cities and states where most people are doing things right, Fauci said, a segment of people not wearing masks or following social distancing remains vulnerable to infection and can keep the virus smoldering in U.S. communities.

“Unless everybody pulls together, and gets the level way down over baseline, we’re going to continue to see these kind of increases that Dr. Birx was talking about in several of those cities,” Fauci said.

White House coronavirus experts have in recent days sent regular warnings to cities and states not to relax anti-coronavirus measures too much before the virus is under sufficient control.

On average, 1,000 people are dying each day nationwide from COVID-19. The U.S. death toll is now over 157,000, with 4.8 million known cases.

President Donald Trump, in contrast, has played down the staying power of the virus, saying on Wednesday “it will go away like things go away” as he urged U.S. schools to reopen on time for face-to-face lessons.

Trump also said children are “almost immune” from COVID-19, prompting Facebook Inc on Wednesday to take down a post by the Republican president containing a Fox News video clip in which he made the statement. Facebook said it violated its rules against sharing misinformation about the virus.

Chicago’s mayor said on Wednesday that school would be online-only in September, after the teachers’ union and many parents in the city objected to a plan to allow students the option of attending class twice a week in pods of 15.

Chicago is the third-largest school district in the United States behind New York and Los Angeles, with 350,000 students.

Los Angeles has already announced that students will be kept home, while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he expects to have children attend classes part of the time.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Georgia prosecutor asks court to revoke bond for former Atlanta policeman charged with murder

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia prosecutor has asked a judge to revoke the bond for the former Atlanta policeman charged with murder in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, saying in court papers that he had violated its terms by taking an out-of-state vacation.

Brooks, a Black man, was fatally shot in June in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta, an incident that was caught on video and set off days of protests over racial inequality and social injustice.

District Attorney Paul Howard asked the court late on Tuesday to send former officer Garrett Rolfe, 27, back to jail for violating the terms of his bond, which include a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and an order that he stays within the court’s jurisdiction.

Rolfe, who was out of jail on $500,000 bond, went to Daytona Beach, Florida, according to the court filing, which cited data from an ankle-monitoring device.

The court papers, filed to Fulton Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick, also say the state received notice from Rolfe’s attorney on Monday that he had traveled to Florida for vacation.

Rolfe’s attorney, Noah Pines, could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

An attorney for Brooks’ family, Chris Stewart, said at a news briefing on Wednesday that he had never heard of someone out on bond being able to take a vacation.

“That is not a flight risk, that is flight,” he said.

No date has been set for a hearing on the prosecutor’s motion to revoke bail.

A second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, was placed on administrative duty and charged with aggravated assault. The city’s police chief resigned after the incident.

In a separate legal action, Rolfe filed a civil lawsuit against the city and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, contesting his firing from the department. It states that he was not given the benefit of a discipline hearing before he was dismissed.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Bernadette Baum)

Georgia’s Governor withdraws emergency request to stop Atlanta’s mask mandate for COVID-19

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday withdrew his emergency request for a court to stop enforcement of Atlanta’s requirement that faces masks be worn in all public places, while mediation over the state’s legal effort to block the mandate proceeds.

Kemp sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city two weeks ago to stop enforcement of the local mandate, aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The governor argued that the city lacks the authority to override his order encouraging but not requiring face coverings.

In a statement, the Republican governor’s office said that the motion was withdrawn, “to continue productive, good faith negotiations with city officials and prepare for a future hearing on the merits of our legal position.”

Mayor Bottoms, a Democrat, has said that she would continue to defy the governor’s orders, but hoped that the two sides could find a solution.

Bottoms is one of a handful of Georgia mayors and other leaders who have enacted local mask orders in defiance of the governor.

Kemp, one of the first governors to ease statewide stay-at-home orders and business closures, has suggested that mandating masks would be too restrictive.

As Southern U.S. states have seen a spurt of new cases, Georgia has had more than 170,000 coronavirus cases and over 3,500 known fatalities.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Second Georgia judge recuses herself before hearing on Atlanta’s face mask mandate

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Two Georgia judges recused themselves Tuesday before a hearing on Governor Brian Kemp’s lawsuit seeking to stop Atlanta’s mayor from enforcing a requirement that people in the state’s largest city wear masks in public.

First, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Ellerbe recused herself about an hour before the hearing, but did not provide a reason in a one-page court filing except to describe it as a “voluntary recusal.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Ellerbe told court officials she had discussed the case with another judge prior to the hearing.

The second Fulton County Superior Court Judge, Shawn Ellen LaGrua, was then appointed, but also quickly recused herself.

In a two-page court filing, she wrote that she had once worked for Governor Kemp when he was Georgia’s secretary of state and did not want “any appearance of impropriety or bias.”

A spokesman for the court said a statement was expected later in the day. There was no immediate comment from the governor’s office or the office of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Earlier this month, Kemp barred local leaders from requiring people to wear masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even so, several Georgia cities, including Democratic-led Atlanta, Savannah and Athens, have defied the governor’s order and kept local mandates in place.

The governor’s office filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Bottoms and the Atlanta city council, arguing that local officials lack the legal authority to override Kemp’s orders.

“Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage a public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the 16-page complaint reads.

Tuesday’s hearing was on an emergency motion by the governor’s office to have the court lift Atlanta’s mask requirement while the lawsuit works its way through the court system.

Kemp has not filed lawsuits against the other cities with mask orders.

Americans are divided over the use of masks even as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise in many parts of the country, including Georgia. The divide is largely along political lines, with conservatives more likely than liberals to call the rules a violation of their constitutional rights.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Franklin Paul, Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

Georgia judge recuses herself at hearing over Atlanta’s face mask mandate

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia judge recused herself on Tuesday about an hour before a hearing on Governor Brian Kemp’s lawsuit seeking to stop Atlanta’s mayor from enforcing a requirement that people in the state’s largest city wear masks in public.

In a one-page order, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Ellerbe did not provide a reason for what was described as a “voluntary recusal.”

A spokesman for the court said a statement was expected later in the day. There was no immediate comment from the governor’s office or the office of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Earlier this month, Kemp barred local leaders from requiring people to wear masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even so, several Georgia cities, including Democratic-led Atlanta, Savannah and Athens, have defied the governor’s order and kept local mandates in place.

The governor’s office filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Bottoms and the Atlanta city council, arguing that local officials lack the legal authority to override Kemp’s orders.

“Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage a public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the 16-page complaint reads.

Tuesday’s hearing was on an emergency motion by the governor’s office to have the court lift Atlanta’s mask requirement while the lawsuit works its way through the court system.

The governor’s office has not yet filed lawsuits against the other mayors.

Americans are divided over the use of masks even as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise in many parts of the country, including Georgia. The United States has more than 3.8 million recorded cases and more than 140,900 deaths in the pandemic.

The divide is largely along political lines, with conservatives more likely than liberals to call the rules a violation of their constitutional rights.

President Donald Trump told Fox News on Friday he did not believe in implementing a national mask mandate.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Franklin Paul, Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

Georgia judge to hear arguments over governor’s bid to stop Atlanta mask mandate

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A Georgia judge is scheduled Tuesday to hear arguments in an emergency motion brought by Governor Brian Kemp to stop the city of Atlanta from enforcing a mandate that people wear masks in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The motion, pending before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Ellerbe, is the latest salvo in a clash between some Georgia mayors and Kemp over the issue of mask mandates, which the Republican governor opposes.

It asks the judge to halt Atlanta’s efforts while a lawsuit Kemp filed Thursday works its way through the courts.

Earlier this month, Kemp issued an order that bars local leaders from requiring people to wear masks, but a handful of Georgia cities, including Democratic-led Atlanta, Savannah and Athens, have bucked the governor and continued to require them in public.

The governor’s office filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city council that argues local officials lack the legal authority to override Kemp’s orders.

“Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage a public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the 16-page complaint reads.

The governor’s office has not yet filed lawsuits against the other mayors.

Kemp, one of the first governors to ease statewide stay-at-home orders and business closures following the early stages of the U.S. outbreak, has suggested that mandating masks would be too restrictive.

Bottoms has said she planned to defy Kemp’s order and enforce a mandatory mask ordinance.

“I take this very seriously and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the people of Atlanta,” the mayor said on NBC News’ “Today” on Friday, and she added that the lawsuit is “a waste of taxpayer money.”

Bottoms, who has announced publicly that she and members of her family have tested positive for COVID-19, remains in quarantine at her home office. Judge Ellerbe’s hearing will be conducted by video conference later Tuesday morning.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

The world’s largest Confederate Monument faces renewed calls for removal

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial, a nine-story-high bas-relief sculpture carved into a sprawling rock face northeast of Atlanta, is perhaps the South’s most audacious monument to its pro-slavery legacy still intact.

Despite long-standing demands for the removal of what many consider to be a shrine to racism, the giant depiction of three Confederate heroes on horseback still towers ominously over the Georgia countryside, protected by state law.

The monument – which reopens on Independence Day weekend after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close for weeks – has faced renewed calls for removal since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died during an arrest by a white police officer who pinned his neck to the ground with a knee.

The brutality of Floyd’s death, captured on cellphone video, triggered a national outcry against racial injustice, and revived a long-simmering battle between those demanding the removal of racist symbols from the public sphere, and those who believe the monuments honor Southern tradition and history.

“Here we are in Atlanta, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, and still we have the largest Confederate monument in the world,” said Gerald Griggs, a vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP civil rights group, which staged a march last week calling for the carving to be scraped from the mountainside. “It’s time for our state to get on the right side of history.”

The sheer scale of the monument makes its removal a daunting task to contemplate. Longer than a 100-yard American football field, it features the likenesses of Jefferson Davis, the president of the 11-state Confederacy, and two of its legendary military leaders, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, notched in a relief 400 feet above ground.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization that staunchly defends Stone Mountain and other Confederate statues and emblems. Dedicated to teaching the “Southern Cause,” according to its website, it believes their removal is akin to purging American history.

The Southern or “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” holds that the war was fought over a heroic, but lost, effort to defend states’ rights to secede from the Union in the face of Northern aggression, rather than the preservation of slavery.

Martin O’Toole, an official of the Georgia chapter, said the monument is not a totem of racism at all. It’s history, plain and simple, he says.

“It’s three men on horses,” O’Toole said. “What’s racist about that?”

Maurice J. Hobson, an associate professor of African American Studies at Georgia State University, counters this, describing the Southern Cause as “a false history” that downplays slavery’s role in the Civil War.

He said the Confederate leaders were traitors to the United States who fought to hold on to a Southern economy that depended on slavery.

All three men featured on the monument, Davis, Lee and Jackson, were slave owners.

“The whole of Stone Mountain was erected to show what some white Georgians revered,” he said.

Stone Mountain has long held symbolism for white supremacists. The Ku Klux Klan, a hate group that was formed by Confederate Army veterans and has a history of lynchings and terror against Black people, held its rebirth ceremony atop the mountain in 1915 with flaming crosses. Klansmen still hold occasional gatherings in the shadows of the edifice, albeit now met with protesters behind police tape. Many of those cross-burnings took place on or around July 4.

The monolithic monument was proposed more than a century ago and had numerous false starts over the years.

But with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, segregationist officials in the state pushed for the creation of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in 1958 and purchased the park. The carving was completed in 1972.

“This debate has been going on for years, and we’re sensitive to it,” John Bankhead, a spokesman for the group, said. “We want to tell history as it is, not as some say it is.”

In the past, others have suggested putting more balance into the monument. There was a proposal to build a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr., the Atlanta-based civil rights icon, but the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as well the King family, rejected the idea.

Even though that idea floundered, Hobson advocates adding more carvings to the rock face, including African American historical figures and leaders.

“It needs to be put in a context that forces a conversation, a serious conversation,” he said. “The easiest way to rectify it, is surround it.”

Griggs of the NAACP said that the civil rights group has consulted with stone masons who said it would cost about $300,000 to $400,000 to remove the towering images.

“Take it down,” he said. “Restore the mountain to its original condition.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Frank McGurty and Aurora Ellis)

Ex-Atlanta policeman charged in Brooks’ death freed from jail, official says

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – The former Atlanta police officer charged in last month’s death of Rayshard Brooks, which touched off days of anti-racism protests, has been released from jail on bail, an official said on Wednesday.

A Georgia County judge on Tuesday set bond for Garrett Rolfe, 27, at $500,000, and added numerous conditions, including that he wears an ankle monitor and obeys a curfew.

Rolfe left Gwinnett County Jail at 12:27 a.m. EDT (0337 GMT) on Wednesday, according to county Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shannon Volkodav.

Representatives for the jail, police, Rolfe and Brooks’ family were not immediately available for comment.

The white policeman is charged with felony murder and 10 other offenses in the shooting of Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, at a Wendy’s parking lot in south Atlanta.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she would allow Rolfe to be freed from jail while awaiting trial because she did not believe the former officer was a danger to the community or a flight risk.

Brooks’ June 12 death exacerbated tensions in the United States over police brutality and racism stoked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Surveillance and cellphone video of the Atlanta shooting was widely viewed on social media, triggering sometimes-violent demonstrations and the burning of the fast-food restaurant.

At Tuesday’s hearing, before the judge gave her decision, Brooks’ widow Tomika Miller asked the court to deny bond, saying she would not feel safe with the former officer free.

“I say ‘no’ because mentally, I’m not able to handle it. I don’t feel safe with him out there,” she said.

Rolfe’s attorneys have said they intend to present strong evidence asserting he was legally justified in using deadly force because he was acting in self-defense. Rolfe was fired from the police and had been held at the Gwinnett County jail.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Bernadette Baum)