Live Protest Updates: Some Atlanta Officers Stay Home After Rayshard Brooks Charges


After prosecutors filed a murder charge in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, many Atlanta police officers stay home.

An unusually high number of police officers in Atlanta did not show up to work their shifts on Wednesday evening after a former officer was charged with murder and aggravated assault in the killing last week of a black man outside a fast-food restaurant.

There were suggestions that the protest by officers could continue on Thursday, and a union official described morale as “terrible.”

The former officer, Garrett Rolfe, faces a total of 11 charges in connection with the death of the man, Rayshard Brooks. The killing, which was captured on a widely circulated video, has prompted the resignation of Atlanta’s police chief and further inflamed the tensions over race and policing that are roiling the nation.

In announcing the charges on Wednesday, prosecutors revealed new details of the late-night encounter, including that Mr. Rolfe kicked the dying man after shooting him twice in the back.

Officials from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the union representing Atlanta Police Department officers, denounced the charges. A spokesman for the Police Department said on Wednesday that more officers than usual had called out and not come into work their evening shifts, but he said the department still had enough resources to function.

Vince Champion, the regional director for the union, said in a telephone interview Thursday morning that officers had been calling the union to say that they were angry and would not show up to work.

“I have been getting phone calls since the district attorney had his press conference that officers were walking off the job, were not answering calls, and I have been hearing officers were calling in all night last night that they were not coming in to work today,” Mr. Champion said.

“As a union, we do not support or start the ‘blue flu,’” he said, referring to officers calling in sick. “This was not organized.”

Mr. Champion said he had received calls from officers across the department who said they would stay at home in protest. “The morale is terrible,” he said.

At a news conference on Wednesday to announce the charges, prosecutors said that Mr. Rolfe declared, “I got him,” after firing the fatal shots at Mr. Brooks. Mr. Rolfe kicked the victim, prosecutors said, while his partner stood on the fatally wounded man’s shoulder.

Mr. Rolfe and his partner, Devin Brosnan, both of whom are white, then failed to render aid for more than two minutes, said Paul L. Howard Jr., the Fulton County district attorney.

Officer Brosnan, who remains on the police force on administrative duty, was charged with three counts, including aggravated assault and violations of oath, Mr. Howard said, adding that Officer Brosnan is cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation.

The killing took place on Friday night, after the police were called to a Wendy’s restaurant where Mr. Brooks, 27, had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through line, the authorities said.

Within 24 hours of the shooting, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta said that she did not believe it was justified, and Mr. Rolfe had been fired. The city’s police chief, Erika Shields, also resigned.

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, President Trump defended Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

“You can’t resist a police officer, and if you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact,” Mr. Trump told the Fox host Sean Hannity. “It was out of control — the whole situation was out of control,” the president added.

Mr. Trump said that police officers in America are under siege and that Mr. Rolfe’s fate is now in the hands of the courts.

“It’s up to justice right now,” he said. “It’s going to be up to justice. I hope he gets a fair shake. Because police have not been treated fairly in our country. But again, you can’t resist a police officer like that.”

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Trump said in an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not played since 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, should get a chance at another job in the N.F.L.

“I would love to see him get another shot, but obviously he has to be able to play well,” Mr. Trump said.

The president has repeatedly criticized Mr. Kaepernick and other players for kneeling, urging N. F. L owners in 2017 to fire any players who protested during the national anthem.

Clarice Middleton shook with fear as she stood on the sidewalk outside a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta one December morning in 2018. Moments earlier, she had tried to cash a $200 check, only to be accused of fraud by three branch employees, who then called 911.

Ms. Middleton, who is black, remembers thinking: “I don’t want to die.”

For many black Americans, going to the bank can be a fraught experience. Something as simple as trying to cash a check or open a bank account can lead to suspicious employees summoning the police, causing anxiety and fear — and sometimes even physical danger — for the accused customers.

There is no data on how frequently the police are called on customers who are making legitimate everyday transactions. The phenomenon has its own social media hashtag: #BankingWhileBlack.

Most people who experience an episode of racial profiling don’t report it, lawyers say. Some find it easier to engage in private settlement negotiations. The few who sue — as Ms. Middleton did — are unlikely to win in court because of loopholes in the law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 lists specific businesses that may not treat black customers differently: movie theaters, hotels, restaurants and performance and sports venues. Federal courts have held that because the law identifies the kinds of businesses to which it applies, those not on the list, such as banks, cannot be held to it.

A labor group has voted to oust the Seattle police guild.

A Seattle-area labor coalition voted on Wednesday night to oust the city’s police union from its ranks, as pressure continued to build around the country to reform or defund police departments and stop the misconduct of some officers.

The coalition, the King County Labor Council, had warned the union, the Seattle Police Officers Guild, in recent weeks that it could face expulsion if it did not address systemic racism in its ranks. The police guild had responded with a vow to discuss the issue, but members of the council voted to move forward with removal.

Police unions have become the focus of ire in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Police labor leaders have long led efforts to defend their members and resist proposed reforms.

Amid the anti-racism demonstrations that have rolled across the nation for weeks, Seattle activists have kept up pressure on city officials and the Police Department, with protesters establishing a zone over several city blocks as a home base for gatherings. On Wednesday night, some of those protesters once again shut down Interstate 5.

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Michael Crowley, Richard Fausset, Emily Flitter, Christine Hauser, Rick Rojas, Kate Taylor and Will Wright.





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