In the wake of the Buckhead riots, neighborhood leaders are praising the community spirit of cleaning up, and worrying that looting could continue as a third night of protests loomed.
The rioting in the early morning hours of May 30 included looting at Phipps Plaza mall and other businesses, and storefront damage along the west side of Peachtree Road between Piedmont and Lenox roads. Some businesses on Peachtree Battle Avenue and a shopping center at Collier and Howell Mill roads were hit as well.
Nancy Bliwise, chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit B, lives in the Pine Hills neighborhood adjacent to Lenox Square mall, where police and Georgia National Guard troops warded off rioters. She said residents could hear the police helicopters and now are hoping for “coordinated responses across agencies and pre-planning as best as possible,” as happened with a quieter second night while a protest happened at the Governor’s Mansion.
“Neighbors are recognizing that these are extraordinarily difficult times, especially for African American communities across America,” said Bliwise. “They are concerned that a peaceful demonstration turned violent and worried that this will be repeated throughout the city and that people will be hurt.”
The morning after the looting, Garth Peters of the Buckhead Coalition, an organization of civic and business leaders, set out to help clean up the damage.
“We thought we would have to try to start organizing some volunteers. But as it turns out, when I got on the ground, they were just there,” he said. “…Wow, the community can’t be more proud of its residents that come out of nowhere, don’t pronounce themselves, and then disappear back with just selfless contribution.”
Residents of nearby apartments and condos, as well as some people driving in from other neighborhoods, showed up with brooms and had much broken glass and other debris cleaned up by 11 a.m., Peters said.
Daniel Opene, district manager for Home Depot, offered to donate bottled water, ice and trash bags. That went to contractors who were boarding up windows and other large-scale efforts. The Buckhead Community Improvement District, Livable Buckhead and the city Public Works department joined in cleanup as well.
Peters praised the response from the city and police authorities on the second night, where there was no major rioting. “The approach that the city took last night was mindful of both the protesters and the community,” he said.