Rioters Rip Through Atlanta’s Court District

DATE 05/01/92  




A crowd made up largely of young blacks marched from Atlanta University Center through the city’s legal and political center Thursday, breaking windows in cars and buildings and causing injuries.

The crowd, chanting “No justice, no peace,” was protesting Wednesday’s acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers accused in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.

About 300 marchers moved down Mitchell Street about 2:15 p.m., throwing chunks of concrete, bottles and pieces of metal through storefronts and windows. At least one second-floor window in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building was smashed.

The violence took its toll on people working in offices along the street, including lawyers. Louis G. McBryan, a partner in Ellenberg & Associates, was among the injured, said Terence T. Thomas, a sole practitioner who shares office space with McBryan.

Thomas said McBryan, who is white, was attacked in the parking lot of his 170 Mitchell St. office by a group of people as the marchers went by. Thomas found McBryan outside suffering from a head injury.

“It was a mess of blood,” Thomas said, sirens wailing through the smashed window behind him.    McBryan required stitches in his face and head, and suffered bruises on his back, said Richard D. Ellenberg. McBryan was being examined at West Paces Ferry Hospital at press time. Hospital officials said he was in stable condition and scheduled to be released late Thursday afternoon.

 “The very thing that these people are upset about, the mindless violence they are protesting … violence done at someone based solely on race … is the exact thing they are perpetrating,” said Thomas, who is black. “That’s the irony of it all. It’s pretty disgusting.”

Marchers also smashed out the windows of the American Civil Liberties Union at 233 Mitchell St. Gerald R. Weber Jr., a staff attorney, was struck in the buttocks by a brick but wasn’t seriously injured, said ACLU executive director Teresa Nelson. An intern was kicked by marchers, Nelson said, but also was not seriously injured.

Nelson said the ACLU staff had wanted to march with the students, “but to these kids we’re just another white face. Their anger has gone unanswered for too long, but we don’t condone the violence,” Nelson said. 

A construction worker from the new Fulton County Courthouse construction site also was injured when he tried to make a phone call as the marchers passed by.

“Someone just cold-cocked him while he was talking on the pay phone. We’re barricading up for when they come back,” said Jerry Teeler, safety director at the construction site.    The marching and sporadic rioting also caused the evacuation of downtown federal and state courts.

Mercer Lewis Jr., administrator for Fulton Superior Court, said Pryor Street was shut down mostly for “damage control” after windows were broken along Mitchell Street. Superior and State Court and the county administration building were shut down late in the afternoon to get employees out of the area, deputies said. 

Huley G. Bailey, Fulton’s chief deputy sheriff, said his officers had concerns initially about getting prisoners awaiting trial out of the courthouse and back to jail. However, most of the inmates were finished with arraignments by the time the march began and were taken back to the jail.

Several downtown buildings, including 191 Peachtree and 55 Park Place, were closed, locking workers in and marchers out. 191 Peachtree houses two of the city’s largest law firms, King & Spalding and Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy. Arnall Golden & Gregory is the major law firm tenant in 55 Park Place.

The marchers, about 300 in all, paused at the entrance to the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive side of the State Capitol for a 20-minute rally, stopping first to overturn a Buick Park Avenue parked along the street. State Rep. Tyrone Brooks said the car belonged to Frank Bates, executive assistant to the governor.

Several marchers decried the violence, saying they intended the march to be peaceful. Lynne Ridley, a Spelman College student and a member of the Atlanta University Center, the sponsor of the march, said, “We can’t account for the few who did what they did. We said no violence.”    However, one young black man holding a megaphone and standing on the steps of the Capitol exhorted the crowd to do whatever necessary to enforce black rights.

“I hope you all know what revolution means,” the young man said. “If we are going to have liberation, we have to take something from them they are not prepared to give up.”

Lines of police in riot gear blocked the entrance to the Capitol and lined the streets behind the crowd.

White journalists in the crowd were repeatedly threatened. After the crowd had marched to Atlanta City Hall for a second rally, three young black men began pushing cameramen from the government access channel and Channel 11, blocking their camera lenses and telling them not to film.

 “Fu– you devil white motherfu—–,” one young man said.

Daily Report  photographer David Glueck was attacked by at least four people on Mitchell Street while photographing people beating on cars and rioting.

Glueck said the rioters grabbed for his camera and then attacked him, inflicting cuts around his face and head. As he made his way back to the office bleeding, Glueck said several marchers laughed and said, “You know what it feels like now.”

Rep. Brooks said he understands what motivates the marchers’ anger.

“When you’ve got an injustice like the acquittal of [the Los Angeles police officers], you can expect this,” Brooks said. “The only thing that’s going to satisfy black America is to put those men in jail.”

Staff reporters Liza Kaufman, Paul Kvinta, David Marmins, Tim O’Reiley, Trisha Renaud and Katie Wood contributed to this article.