Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr told media members in Atlanta to stop referring to the “Cop City” rioters as “protesters” amid lawlessness in the city this weekend.
“To the Atlanta Media: Peaceful protestors use words. Rioters smash windows, set police cars on fire & shoot law enforcement officers” Carr tweeted Saturday. “Stop calling these people protesters.”
Carr issued hashtags linked to local stations WAGA-TV, WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, GPB News, as well as to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.
What’s the background?
Multiple videos showed rioting Saturday amid a protest over a fatal police shooting at the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center nicknamed “Cop City.” Activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran — who called himself “Tortuguita” — allegedly shot a Georgia State Patrol trooper, after which, law enforcement returned fire, killing Teran, who was 26.
The protest for Teran turned violent within an hour as rioters launched fireworks and threw large rocks at the Atlanta Police Foundation building in downtown Atlanta. Two police cruisers were set on fire, bricks were thrown at other APD vehicles, and windows of local businesses were smashed.
What did media outlets do?
Media outlets, while acknowledging the rioting, still emphasized that the protest began as “peaceful.”
NPR, for example, wrote that “the initial hour of the demonstration had been peaceful …”
A WAGA-TV reporter — narrating during a live video showing a vehicle fire raging in the background — said “it was a largely peaceful protest”:
Freelance journalist David Peisner raised the question to CNN — as videos of the chaos in Atlanta flashed onscreen — if property destruction can be considered violence.
“I think that there’s a real blurring of the lines in the use of the word ‘violence.’ Is property destruction violence? To some people it certainly is. But, you know, this idea that breaking windows or other acts of property destruction are the same as actual violence against humans, it’s kind of a dangerous and slippery concept,” Peisner said.
He continued: “Look, I don’t think this is a smart move. I don’t think it’s a productive move from the standpoint of the protesters, but as the chief himself said, this is a small group … you keep using these words ‘violent, violent, violent, violent’ … the only acts of violence against people that I saw were actually police tackling protesters.”
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted Saturday that “violence and unlawful destruction of property are not acts of protest. They are crimes that will not be tolerated in Georgia and will be prosecuted fully.”
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