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Atlanta Mayor Sparks Debate About ‘Black-on-Black Crime’ After Shooting Death of 8-Year-Old: ‘If You Want People to Take Us Seriously…We Can’t Lose Each Other’

After the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl over the Fourth of July Weekend in Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for the violence that has taken hold of the city amid protests and demonstrations to end. Secoriea Turner was shot and killed as she sat in the back of a car across the street from the same Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was shot by officers in June. Atlanta police said someone shot into the car in which Secoriea was riding after a group of armed people stopped the car as it attempted to pull into a package store.

At a news conference following the little girl’s shooting, Mayor Bottoms stood alongside members of Secoriea’s family and representatives from the police department to address the deadly violence that has recently plagued the city. She differentiated Turner’s death from that of Rayshard Brooks, saying her death was “not by the hands of a police officer, but by the hands of a coward.” She also stressed that the recent string of violence in the city has been perpetrated by “community members” rather than police officers. Her comments have become controversial, and sparked debates about black-on-black crime.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a news conference about the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl. (Screengrab WSB)

“Enough is enough,” she said, before comparing the current Black Lives Matter movement to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. “During the Civil Rights movement, there was a defined common enemy. We’re fighting the enemy within when we are shooting each other up on our streets. You shot and killed a baby! the mayor exclaimed. She then challenged the community, saying “If you want people to take us seriously, and you don’t want us to lose this movement, then we can’t lose each other.”

Secoriea’s parents also spoke at the news conference. “They say Black lives matter. You killed your own. You killed your own this time,” said the girl’s father.

After the news conference, another person was killed and two more were injured when gunfire broke out, again, near the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot.

Secoriea Turner (11Alive Broadcast screengrab)

The city of Atlanta has seen weeks of major protests and demonstrations in the aftermath of the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. During her comments, the mayor also alluded to the fact that some major roads have been illegally blocked by protesters as a result of the demonstrations. People continued to occupy the Brooks memorial near the Wendy’s over the weekend. Right before Turner was killed, the driver of the vehicle she was in was attempting to enter a parking lot on Pryor Road, where a group of protesters had illegally placed barricades. Two people reportedly opened fire, with Secoriea ending up struck.

“This random, Wild Wild West, shoot ’em up because you can. It’s gotta stop,” said Bottoms. “You can’t blame this on a police officer.”

The mayor also spoke about the recent spike in violence in Atlanta. “We’ve had over 75 shootings in this city over the past several weeks. You can’t blame that on APD.”

In total, four people were killed and more than 20 others injured across six shootings over the Fourth of July weekend in Atlanta. Atlanta police say murders increased by 86 percent over the last 28 days of June, compared to the same time last year. Ninety-three people reportedly were shot in Atlanta during the four-week period of May 31 to June 27,compared to 46 in the same period in 2019.

Some point to people who may distrust police taking matters into their own hands instead of calling police and pent-up energy from following weeks of a state stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic. Another possible reason, some say, is Atlanta officers operating in a less-than-proactive manner over concerns about anti-police sentiments.

On social media, people had mixed reactions to the mayor’s comments, which sparked conversations about black-on-black crime. Some users saw nothing wrong with Bottoms addressing black-on-black crime.

There were others who didn’t find it appropriate to draw a parallel between police brutality and intraracial violence.

The mayor also applauded the many peaceful protesters who are standing up for those who have been killed “because of injustice.” She called for those occupying the memorial at Wendy’s over the weekend to “clear out,” and asked anyone who knows who opened fire on Secoriea to “honor this baby’s life” by turning them in to the police.

Some people blamed the girl’s death on the fact that the city allowed the protesters to continue to congregate at the memorial site for so long, and even called for the mayor to resign.

Atlanta police and sanitation crews have started to remove memorial and other items from the Wendy’s area. As officers removed flowers from the memorial on Monday morning, some protesters yelled at police, saying the memorial was peaceful and that it was not connected to the shooting death of Turner.

A representative of a group of demonstrators called RB Memorial Sleep-In Activists expressed their condolences to Turner’s family, but said the shooting happened down the street from the Wendy’s and not at the restaurant itself. “We aren’t kid killers,” said the representative, who goes by Lady A. The group has released a video condemning the recent shooting.

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