Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms vowed Sunday evening that America will "get to the other side of this" as the country grapples with widespread unrest and Atlanta becomes the focus of another fatal shooting of a black man at the hands of police.
On Friday, Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot dead by an officer at a Wendy's drive-thru in Atlanta after police moved to handcuff him for suspected driving under the influence, according to videos from the scene. The officer who shot Brooks was fired and police chief Erika Shields resigned as exasperated protesters have called for justice over the weekend.
But Bottoms, a Democrat, said during a CNN town hall Sunday that her heart remains heavy because "up until Friday I thought we were doing it right."
"We have implicit bias training in this city. We require people to go to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. We have housing for our police officers in many of our communities in which they are serving in. But yet and still, it's not enough," she said.
"I don't think that we can out train our way as a country out of where we are and how we view race and how we interact with each other. I think that while we are doing it in our police departments there is clearly a bigger conversation that has to be had across the country because we are not in a post-racial society and the biases are still there."
Videos of Brooks' death show that he took an officer's Taser during the attempted arrest and then fired the Taser at the officers as he ran away. One officer then fired at Brooks three times with his service weapon, authorities said.
Bottoms, who said she watched video of the shooting for 30 minutes, said the incident was "not confrontational" and called Brooks, "a guy that you were rooting for."
"Even knowing the end, watching it, you are going, 'just let him go, just let him go, let him call somebody to pick him up,'" she said.
Bottoms was one of four mayors, all Democrats, from cities across the US weighing in during a town hall Sunday night on the actions being taken in their communities amid protests over police brutality and racism that began nearly three weeks ago after the death of George Floyd.
The gruesome video of Floyd's killing while in police custody at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has prompted the kind of soul searching about the role of police in society and systemic racism in the criminal justice system, and the nation writ large, that many advocates have been urging for decades.
"To the extent there is any silver lining in this movement that we are seeing around the country, is the fact that we are openly having the conversation," Bottoms said. "Because there are so many biases that people have that they don't recognize they have. And it's not just with our police officers. It's happening each and every day."
That message was echoed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who stressed that people shouldn't "forget that there are real live people who have lost their lives as a result of police violence and their families continue to live in that pain."
Additionally, both Mayors London Breed of San Francisco and Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC, highlighted the way more African American leaders are stepping onto the national stage amid the unrest.
"This is an extraordinary time for extraordinary leadership in the absence of federal leadership," Breed said Sunday. "What is happening in this country, as you are seeing, mayors in particular, especially African American mayors, who are being called like never before because of what's happening around race in this country."
Rising star in the Democratic Party
Bottoms first stepped into the national spotlight last month when she denounced vandalism in her city as "chaos" after demonstrations turned violent and destructive.
"What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.," an impassioned Bottoms said at a news conference. "This is chaos."
The Democratic mayor, whose name has been floated as a possible vice presidential pick for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, added: "when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt."
"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."