Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Sunday rebuked Donald Trump’s rhetoric amid days of protests after the death of George Floyd, saying the President “is making it worse” and is stoking racial tensions.
“He should just stop talking. This is like Charlottesville all over again,” Bottoms told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “He speaks and he makes it worse. There are times when you should just be quiet and I wish that he would just be quiet. Or if he can’t be silent, if there is somebody of good sense and good conscience in the White House, put him in front of a teleprompter and pray he reads it and at least says the right things, because he is making it worse.”
Her remarks come amid ongoing protests across the country over the death of Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died after he was pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer. In a series of tweets on Friday, Trump called protestors “THUGS” adding, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase with racist origins used by a former Miami police chief in the late 1960s in the wake of protests.
CNN reached out to the White House for response to Bottoms’ comments on Sunday.
The Atlanta mayor also told Tapper she is extremely concerned about people gathering to protest amid the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted life in the US. There are more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of the virus in the US and at least 103,800 people have died as of Sunday morning, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
“I am extremely concerned when we are seeing mass gatherings. We know what’s already happening in our community with this virus,” she said. “We’re going to see — we’re going to see the other side of this in a couple of weeks.” She added, ” We are losing sight of so many things right now.”
Bottoms urged Americans not to lose sight of the need for “change in this country as it relates to race relations in this country. There has to be change in this country when it comes to leadership in this country. There has to be change as it relates to our health care system and how our communities of color are receiving health care in this country. But right now, we’re talking about cars being burned and businesses being vandalized.”
Bottoms, a former judge and city council member, was sworn in as mayor in 2018 and has quickly emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars. On Friday night, amid a swirl of increasingly tense and occasionally violent scenes, she faced the cameras, her constituents — and the country.
“I am a mother to four black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old. And when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt,” Bottoms said. “And yesterday when I heard there were rumors about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do, I called my son and I said, ‘Where are you?’ I said, ‘I cannot protect you and black boys shouldn’t be out today.'”
She stopped for a moment, pursed her lips, and then delivered a frank and personal message.
“So, you’re not going to out-concern me and out-care about where we are in America,” Bottoms said. “I wear this each and every day, and I pray over my children, each and every day.”
In July of 2019, Bottoms spoke out forcefully against planned Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Atlanta, and other cities, telling CNN at the time that her city was “not complicit in what’s happening.”
She dismissed the federal targeting of migrants as a means of reducing crime, as the Trump administration has often framed it, and said her office would provide legal assistance to immigrant families, in English and Spanish, and warned those communities to be vigilant ahead of the scheduled sweeps.
“Our officers don’t enforce immigration borders,” Bottoms said. “We’ve closed our city detention centers to ICE because we don’t want to be complicit in family separation.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.