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    A central gathering place for protesters in downtown Atlanta has closed due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  Centennial Olympic Park is closed indefinitely, according to a statement issued Monday by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA), which manages the park. Executive director Frank Poe said that the authority has lost income from canceled summer activities and can’t afford to keep the park open to the public.  “The financial ramifications stemming from this global pandemic have hit the hospitality industry, including Georgia World Congress Center Authority, especially hard,” Poe said. “The park relies on operating support from GWCC and without event activities on our campus the costs associated with maintaining public access to the park is not feasible. Read more on this story on ajc.com.
  • The deadly shooting death of an 8-year-old girl outside of a Wendy’s restaurant occupied by armed people raises questions about why the mayor, city leaders and the Atlanta Police allowed the group to continuously remain on the property and block a city street. For weeks, there were multiple reports of threats — and at least one beating — against people approaching the site in the days leading up to the fatal shooting of Secoriea Turner, who was riding in the back seat of her mother’s car Saturday as she tried to turn into a liquor store near the restaurant and was stopped by a group of protesters. There have also been at least two other shootings at the site. Secoriea’s shooting was among more than 20 others Saturday night and Sunday morning. These included 14 people wounded at a huge party on Edgewood Avenue. Two died there. And just last week, armed individuals at the Wendy’s threatened to shoot an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and photographer. READ | Atlanta passes ban on police chokeholds, empowers citizen review board The violence, along with Saturday’s ransacking of the Georgia State Patrol headquarters, prompted Gov. Brian Kemp to deploy as many as 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops to protect state buildings Monday. The AJC Monday tried to ask Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant why the city did not remove the armed protesters, but the mayor, who announced she tested positive for COVID-19, did not comment. A spokesperson for the chief didn’t respond to questions from the AJC about if police were aware that the group had threatened people with guns, and if so, why they took no action. The protesters who camped out at the Wendy’s denied responsibility in Secoriea’s killing. The police chief also declined to answer questions about whether Bottoms made the decision to allow protesters to remain at the site, if the department was aware of people being threatened by armed protesters, and why they didn’t stop armed demonstrators from using guns to block the road. READ | Atlanta Wendy’s protesters decry Secoriea Turner’s killing Secoriea’s death comes at a time when some U.S. mayors have failed to contain protests in their cities. Last week in Seattle, the city finally disbanded the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency order declaring the blocks-long area an “unlawful assembly” that required immediate action. It had been occupied by protesters for most of June. “The CHOP has become lawless and brutal,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, who said two shooting deaths, robberies, assaults and countless property crimes had occurred in the area. Members of Atlanta’s City Council could not provide answers to why the city failed to reign in the armed protesters. City Council President Felicia Moore said she visited the Wendy’s more than half a dozen times since Rayshard Brooks was shot. She described a noticeable lack of police presence, especially after a woman was shot there on June 20. Moore said demonstrators believe a white man fired a gun into the crowd and that the police were slow to respond. She also pointed to video on social media to a prior shooting depicting demonstrators cursing and shoving a white officer away from the scene. “Get your white face out of here,” one man shouts on the video. Councilwoman Carla Smith told the AJC on Monday that she didn’t know conditions at the protest site had gotten worse. During an emotional press conference Sunday, Bottoms said there was little police could do because of Georgia law that allows gun owners to carry firearms openly. “I just want to remind you all Georgia has open carry law,” Bottoms said. “Unless somebody is pointing a gun or doing something unlawful with that gun, simply because they are walking around with this gun, doesn’t give us probable cause to stop them.” Other cities have dealt with similar situations. In Seattle last week, police disbanded the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency order declaring the blocks-long area an “unlawful assembly” that required immediate action. It had been occupied by protesters for most of June. >>Read MORE on AJC.com.
  • Emergency crews are at the scene in a DeKalb County neighborhood where a tree came crashing down overnight. Decatur Assistant Fire Chief Ninetta Violante told Channel 2 Action News that the tree fell onto two homes on Drexel Avenue. One house had four people inside; two men, two women and two dogs. One man was trapped in a bedroom while he slept. The tree blocked the door, and no one could get out of the house. They all eventually got out without injuries but the house won't be able to be lived in. The second house had a woman living inside. She and her dog were trapped, but rescued. That house is safe to occupy.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp has signed an executive order declaring a State of Emergency and authorizing the call-up of up to 1,000 National Guard troops in Georgia. The troops will be deployed as needed to protect state buildings, including the State Capitol, the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters, the governor’s mansion and the Georgia World Congress Center. The goal, according to the governor’s office, is to free up state troopers from those locations so they can help patrol the streets of Atlanta. “Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” Kemp said Monday. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city. I have declared a State of Emergency and called up the Georgia Guard because the safety of our citizens comes first. This measure will allow troops to protect state property and dispatch state law enforcement officers to patrol our streets. Enough with the tough talk. We must protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.” The order comes after a burst of violence across the city over the holiday weekend that left four dead, including an 8-year-old girl, and saw the ransacking of the headquarters of the Georgia State Patrol. Kemp, a Republican, issued the emergency order after threatening late Sunday to “take action” to curb the unrest in Atlanta if Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms failed to do so, a move that highlighted the complicated, and increasingly tense, relationship between two of the state’s most prominent politicians. The governor’s aides said earlier Monday that his emergency powers grant him the authority to deploy Georgia National Guard troops to Atlanta’s streets. He took that step in late May, after widespread looting and violence, at Bottoms' request. The mayor, who said Monday she tested positive for the coronavirus,  did not immediately address Kemp’s decision. But she issued her own plea to residents to end the violence. At least 93 people were shot in Atlanta between May 31 — roughly when the George Floyd protests began — and June 27. That’s roughly double the number from the same span a year ago. “This random wild, Wild West shoot-‘em-up because you can, has gotta stop. It has to stop,” she said after the violent weekend. >>Read MORE on AJC.com.
  • On Tuesday, July 7, New Life Church of Decatur will be holding a four-hour event to provide free COVID-19 testing, according to a press release. This event, which is being held in partnership with 100 Black Men of DeKalb County and The Family Health Centers of Georgia, starts at 10 a.m. and will go until 2 p.m. Citizens will be able to take the test either by driving through a line set up for cars or on a walk-up basis. Although pre-registration is encouraged, it is not required. Those wanting the test, however, will have to produce some type a photo-ID. The testing will be done on the New Life Church campus located at 3592 Flat Shoals Road in Decatur. >>Read MORE on AJC.com. New Life Church is a non-denominational congregation. Information: call Family Health Centers of Georgia at 1-800-935-6721.
  • This is shaping up as being the summer of the American road trip. With COVID-19 concerns prompting many to travel by car instead of plane, we could all use a refresher course in the most fundamental theme of driving education: defensive driving. Defensive driving very simply is driving in a way that takes the safety of yourself and others into equal consideration. This mindset also demands that a driver never assume others around them are doing the same. If all drivers took on this cautious and proactive yoke, the roads would be far safer. WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Ashley Frasca approached me with the idea of doing this column and polling some of our team to get different perspectives. Frasca’s point of view is worth hearing, as she has a 40-minute, early-morning commute from Holly Springs to WSB’s studios in Midtown. “I think one of the biggest things that keeps me safe on the roads in those early hours is driving away from the pack,” Frasca said. “I slightly increase or back off my speed, if necessary, to ensure that I’m not driving right around other cars. I think keeping a large ‘bubble’ around your car gives you ample time to react to anything that may happen.” So Frasca helps create room for error for both others and herself. And her morning drive colleague Smilin’ Mark McKay echoes that sentiment. “(Maintaining distance) saved me at least a couple of times,” McKay said, “including on I-85/northbound north of 17th Street in Midtown Atlanta when a crash occurred three to four vehicles in front of me in lane three. I was quickly able to change lanes and avoid the mishap.” McKay steered clear of the problem in front of him because he was not tailgating that wrecking gaggle. He was also very attentive, with his eyes ahead. But McKay said drivers can maneuver more defensively by keeping their heads on swivels. “Use your side and interior mirrors in a constant sweep with your eyes,” McKay explained. “Be aware of who is around and behind you, so as not to be surprised. Don’t rely solely on the automatic side warning lights now found on newer vehicles. It’s easy to forget the basics of being behind the wheel and to let technology take over.” The new driving aids on vehicles have made driving more effortless. The blindspot indicator lights that McKay mentioned can help train drivers not to check that blindspot or mirror themselves. Turn-by-turn navigation dumbs down the need for the driver to know when they need to get over and turn or exit, because the app can just say when. Relinquishing control of the functions of driving is inverse to the notion of driving defensively. This summertime weather pattern makes for plenty of mishaps on the road. Pop-up storms can be intense, sudden, and a perfect recipe for disaster. Afternoon drive reporter Mike Shields sees these storms and wrecks often on his watch. “Slow down when the water comes down. Hydroplaning is not only dangerous for one driver but surrounding drivers in other vehicles,” Shields, a former police officer explained. “Never hit the brakes or gas if you begin to hydroplane.” Then Shields really dug in on the defensive part of his advice: “Hydroplaning can mostly be prevented if you slow down on wet roads. We see this occurring over and over, in many instances, in the same spots.” Those routine hydroplaning hot zones to which Shields is referring are places where water tends to accumulate in heavy rain. I-20/westbound near Candler Road in DeKalb County, for example, is always a place we watch when rain falls. Knowing ahead of time where some of these spots are on one’s commute is another great way to be proactive and cautiously approach those zones. That would be a very defensive method. Frasca sums up her view behind the wheel — an example we all should follow: “The older I’ve become, and in large part due to the things I see in this job, I’ve become a much more defensive driver! Especially being on the interstates so often, I drive as if any car, any driver, at any time, will lose control, lose a tire, glance down at their phone, swerve, or change lanes and not see me. I believe that driving attentively, courteously, and alert is the safest thing you can do.” Following every letter of the law and the driver’s manual does not make someone a good driver. A layer of consciousness above the rules is required to really drive safely and smoothly. Applying the above defensive driving tips will make that summer road trip much safer for everyone. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.
  • Protesters who’ve been gathering at the burned out Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed in a confrontation with Atlanta police are now expressing sadness and outrage over another death. Secoriea Turner, 8, was shot dead when an armed group of people across the street from the restaurant stopped their car in the road on Saturday night. Someone shot into the car from the Wendy’s parking lot, and someone else fired from the parking lot of the package store, which Secoriea’s mother attempted to pull into, according to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The mom was apparently trying to turn around and drive away from the armed group when they fired. Those who’ve been spending time at the site, which they hope to see turned into a community center in Brooks’ honor, said the shooters were not from their group.  “(We) would like to extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to the bereaved family and friends of the young 8-year old girl who was killed,” said one of the leaders of the “sleep-in” movement at the site said in a videotaped statement distributed Monday morning. “To the family, we stand with you and are here for you.” The woman, who identifies herself as Lady A and appears to be at the Wendy’s as she speaks, said: “no one from our group was involved in any way whatsoever in the shooting. ... We have cooperated fully with local authorities as they investigate.”  Hours before Secoriea was gunned down, there had been a block party near the Wendy's, which some have taken to calling the Rayshard Brooks Peace Center. A flyer for the event advertised live music, games and food. Attendees described the event as peaceful and 'beautiful' on Twitter. >>Read MORE on AJC.com.
  • Governor Brian Kemp is responding to a violent weekend that saw several people killed and dozens injured in shooting across Atlanta. In a tweet Sunday night, Kemp says, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace & maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.” An 8-year-old girl was shot and killed Saturday night near the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks died last month. There was a second shooting near the same location just 24 hours after the little girl was killed. A total of three people were shot, and one of those people died. Atlanta police said they responded to multiple shootings throughout the city during the fourth of July weekend. Police reported at least 25 people were shot in six separate incidents. Three of the shootings were deadly. Kemp called the shootings “unacceptable.” “This recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous & unacceptable,” Kemp tweeted. Kemp urged that people need to feel safe from crime. “Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime & violence,” Kemp tweeted. The governor’s tweet was retweeted and “liked” hundreds of times, although some criticized the governor about his focus on Atlanta violence. Civil Rights attorney Lee Merritt, who represents the family of Ahmaud Arbery, responded to the governor in the tweet linking the term “lawlessness” to the initial controversial investigation into the killing of the 25-year-old in Brunswick, Georgia.
  • A large group of armed protesters on Saturday marched through Georgia's Stone Mountain Park, calling for the park's massive Confederate carving to be removed. The predominantly Black demonstrators spoke out against the huge sculpture depicting Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Carved into a granite mountain, the bas-relief sculpture is the largest Confederate monument ever crafted.  Stone Mountain Memorial Association spokesman John Bankhead said there were between 100 and 200 protesters. He said the protesters, many of whom carried large rifles, were peaceful.  Police said that the group did have a permit to gather in the park.  In video posted to YouTube, a leader of the group instructs participants not to point guns at people.  Although the park has historically been a gathering spot for white supremacists, the city of Stone Mountain nowadays has a majority-Black population.  The park usually holds a Fourth of July laser show and fireworks display with the carving as a backdrop, but this year’s presentation was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  WARNING: This video contains explicit language
  • MARTA will begin distributing up to two million disposable masks to customers Monday as it seeks to protect passengers during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency will give away masks from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on weekdays at its transit stations across metro Atlanta. It will consider expanding the distribution to weeknights and weekends based on ridership demand, MARTA said in announcing the move Friday. But the agency stopped short of requiring masks to board MARTA trains and buses. “Since the onset of the pandemic, we have instituted safety precautions and new cleaning protocols in order to continue providing essential transit service while protecting our customers and employees,” CEO Jeffrey Parker said in announcing the move. “We are now asking our customers to join us in helping to stop the spread of this virus by wearing a mask while on MARTA.” Metro Atlanta transit agencies have not required customers to wear masks during the pandemic, and some doubt they can legally do so. But as the number of COVID-19 cases surges, they are still searching for ways to keep customers safe while providing service to low-income residents, essential workers and others who rely on transit. Among other things, the agencies have stepped up cleaning of buses, trains and stations. MARTA also has eliminated most bus routes to focus service on heavily used corridors. The move has helped provide enough buses on those routes to allow for fewer passengers per bus and encourage social distancing. Beginning Monday, MARTA customers will be able to get masks from uniformed station agents or from volunteers wearing a red “Team MARTA” shirt. Each customer will select an individual mask from a tissue-like dispenser. Volunteers from transit advocacy groups including the MARTA Army and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also will participate. “We appreciate those riders who are wearing masks and understand you may not have access to masks or there may be a day you forget yours,” Parker said. “We want you to know we’ve got you covered and to please take and wear a mask before boarding a bus or train.”

News

  • Proms may have been canceled or delayed because of the coronavirus, but that did not stop creative teens from putting together their formal wear all made of duct tape. One gown stands out. Peyton Manker made a coronavirus-themed gown with rolls and rolls of the fix-it tape. She created images of people running from the virus to illustrate how the world tried to avoid it. She also honors those who are on the front lines, including health care workers and police, CNN reported. And what is a gown without accessories? Manker put together a coronavirus-shaped purse and mask that reads “flatten the curve,” CNN reported. Voting is still open in Duck Brand Duct Tape’s “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest. To vote and to see Manker’s competition, click here. Winners for each category -- dress or tux -- will be awarded $10,000 each. The runners-up will get $500 and a prize pack.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history, celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Jimmy Carter, 95, met then-Rosalynn Smith, 92, though his younger sister, Ruth, who was childhood friends with Rosalynn. They began dating in 1945 while Jimmy Carter was home from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. After their first date, Jimmy Carter told his mother that Rosalynn was the woman he was going to marry. The couple exchanged vows July 7, 1946, in their hometown of Plains, Georgia. Since then, they've lived in the Georgia Governor's Mansion and the White House. Together they've raised four children. In 1982, the Carters founded the Carter Center, an organization aimed at resolving issues around human rights and democracy. Their work earned the couple a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999. Then-President Bill Clinton said the couple has “done more good things for more people in more places than any other couple on Earth.” On his 75th birthday in 1999, Jimmy Carter said the most important decision he ever made in his life was “Marrying Rosalynn.”
  • If you see a large white dot in the sky, it is likely not an alien UFOs or even a weather balloon. Instead, it could be a large balloon that is the key to bringing internet access to remote areas. Google and its Alphabet company’s Loon division, are sending high-altitude balloons 12 miles into the sky to provide a network of internet services. The system has been in the testing phase in across the globe. On Monday, balloons were seen over Virginia and North Carolina after being tracked from Canada, WDBJ reported. The communication balloons were also sent up into the stratosphere to provide 4G LTE network connections to Kenya, The New York Times reported. Loon launched 35 balloons over the past few months to prepare for the Kenyan launch, the Times reported. This isn’t the first time the balloons were used to help facilitate communication. They were launched when Hurricane Maria destroyed cell towers in Puerto Rico in 2017. Until recently, however, they have only been used in emergency situations, according to the Times. They float on the air currents above the earth and allow people to have remote contact with family members, doctors and officials during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Tech Crunch.
  • Two different stolen vehicle cases were solved at the same time after a police pursuit in Newberg, Oregon over the weekend. Suspect Randy Lee Cooper was driving a stolen Toyota Land Cruiser Sunday morning when police spotted him in downtown Newberg. Cooper fled in the Toyota when police attempted to stop him. In an attempt to elude police officers, Cooper crashed into a Buick Regal driven by Kristin Nicole Begue, according to KATU. Police took Cooper into custody and discovered that the vehicle he crashed into had been reported stolen three weeks earlier. Begue was arrested for driving under the influence and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, according to KOIN. Cooper was eventually charged with third-degree assault, attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. No one was injured in the incident.
  • The doughnut chain formally known as Dunkin’ Donuts is parting ways with the gas station chain Speedway. In a statement released to the “Today” show, the company said it close the limited menu Dunkin’ locations at the gas stations by the end of the year. “By exiting these sites, we are confident we will be better positioned to serve these trade areas with Dunkin’s newest Next Generation restaurant design that offers a broader menu and modern experience. We also remain committed to growing our presence in gas and convenience locations, as well as other non-traditional locations, including airports, universities, travel plazas and military installations,” Kate Jaspon, Dunkin’s chief financial officer, told “TODAY.” Dunkin’ relabeled itself in 2018 in an effort to focus on coffee and tea. Beverages make up to 60% of the company’s sales.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that officials are considering a ban of popular short-video app TikTok and other Chinese social media apps due to national security concerns. “I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at,” the nation’s top diplomat said Monday on Fox News. He added that a person should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. have expressed concern over the national security risk posed by the rising popularity of Chinese-owned social media platforms. In a letter sent in October to then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged officials to review the threat posed by TikTok, noting it had been downloaded more than 110 million times in the U.S. alone. 'China's vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,' Cotton and Schumer wrote in the letter. In a statement obtained by Reuters, TikTok officials denied ever having provided user data to the Chinese government. 'We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users,' the statement said. 'We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.' Pompeo’s comments came one day after India banned TikTok, operated by Beijing-based internet firm Bytedance, and 58 other Chinese-owned apps amid a border dispute between the two countries. The ban was largely symbolic since the apps can’t be automatically erased from devices where they’ve already been downloaded. TikTok officials have previously said that the company operates separately from ByteDance and that its data centers are located outside of China, meaning their data is not subject to Chinese law, according to CNN. Company officials told the news network that TikTok keeps data for U.S. users in the United States and that national security concerns centered around the company are “unfounded.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.