Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Sunday that the fatal Atlanta police shooting of Rayshard Brooks showed the "legitimacy" of the outrage being expressed by widespread protests across the country.
The death of Brooks, 27, sparked demonstrations in Atlanta on Saturday night, the resignation of the city's police chief and the firing of one of the officers involved.
Brooks’s death is the latest in a string of African-Americans, many young men, being killed by police or vigilantes in confrontations recorded on video.
“Activists are necessarily calling into question what's actually being done," Abrams, who has indicated her interest in becoming Joe Biden's vice presidential pick, said on ABC's "This Week."
She continued: "And what I would say is: There is a legitimacy to this anger. There is a legitimacy to this outrage. A man was murdered because he was asleep in a drive-through. And we know this is not an isolated occurrence.”
Georgia authorities said the incident began late Friday night when they responded to a complaint that a man — later identified as Brooks — was asleep in an Atlanta Wendy's drive-through.
Police said he failed a sobriety test and resisted arrest, grabbing a Taser from an officer while fleeing. According to a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Brooks pointed the Taser at an officer, who opened fire and fatally shot him.
"I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force," Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Saturday.
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned that day, and the police department announced early Sunday morning that one officer, identified as Garrett Rolfe, was fired, and that another, Devin Brosnan, was on administrative leave.
Protesters gathered at the Wendy's on Saturday night, and the fast food restaurant was set on fire.
Widespread Black Lives Matter demonstrations took place across the U.S. after a white Minneapolis police officer was filmed on May 25 kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, killing the unarmed 46-year-old black man during an arrest as he cried out for air. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes.
Although some protesters are calling for defunding the police, Abrams said Sunday on ABC that the debate was a “false choice.”
"We have to have a transformation of how we view the role of law enforcement, how we view the construct of public safety, and how we invest not only in the work that we need them to do to protect us, but the work that we need to do to protect and build our communities."
Abrams, who served as minority leader in Georgia’s House of Representatives, drew national attention in 2018 during a high-profile run for governor against Republican Brian Kemp. The race was marred by allegations of voting irregularities, and Abrams has since spearheaded voter protection efforts.
She has also drawn notice as one of several Democrats who have openly declared their interest in joining Biden’s campaign as his pick for vice president. Biden has similarly said he does not support defunding the police.
Abrams told late night host Stephen Colbert last week that she had not been contacted by the Biden team to be vetted for the position, but she declined to elaborate during her ABC interview.
"My focus is on making sure that we have elections that can happen in November,” she said. “There will be no vice president, there will be no president, if our democracy crumbles under the inefficiencies and the inequities that we see happening.”
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