In the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, violent gang members laid siege to a local Wendy’s to protest his death — establishing an “autonomous zone” with a strict no-trespassing policy for police officers or pedestrians — before shooting and killing an eight-year-old girl, according to a warrant obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Under the guise of protesting police brutality, members of the Bloods street gang established a perimeter around the Wendy’s, with armed rogue members declaring control over the territory “brandishing, pointing and discharging of firearms at citizens and civilians to ensure compliance with their authority in a highly visible manner,” according to the arrest warrant for the gang member allegedly responsible for the girl’s death.
When a car holding three people, including rising third-grader Secoriea Turner, entered the zone, a teenaged gang member named Julian Conley “began to discharge his weapon, an AR-15 style rifle, striking the side and the back of the vehicle,” the affidavit states. A projectile then hit Turner in the head. The car managed to escape to the hospital, as another gang member named Jerrion McKinney chased it off the road, where Turner was pronounced dead.
Both perpetrators were arrested, charged with murder, multiple counts of aggravated assault, and a variety of other gang-related offenses.
In June, Turner’s family members sued the city of Atlanta, its mayor and other leaders, claiming that they endangered their child’s life by allowing a mob of violent delinquents to invade and terrorize the Atlanta street corner. It accuses the city of being “negligent in their duties by failing to remove armed vigilantes who had gathered alongside peaceful protesters at the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed.”
The death of George Floyd last year triggered a wave of social justice protests that turned radical. Some anarchical activists in certain cities established their own autonomous zones to make a political statement, all while intimidating local residents, wielding weapons, preventing first responders from addressing emergency calls, and committing violent acts.
In June 2020, over a dozen businesses and citizens filed a lawsuit against Seattle, like Turner’s family, for its “unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood” to allow for the formation of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone/Organized Protest.” The area was blocked off to the police department and fire department and was generally inaccessible to the public.
“The City’s decision has subjected businesses, employees, and residents of that neighborhood to extensive property damage, public safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties,” the lawsuit read.