SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - No restrictions Monday night for people in Savannah, but Mayor Van Johnson making it clear leaders will be watching out for any signs of trouble.
"I am ending the curfew effective today, but I will retain a copy in my back pocket for the moment anything jumps off,” Mayor Johnson said.
Mayor Johnson said Sunday’s peaceful protest was a big step for our community. It was eye-opening to see so many come together united. He wants to be sure that we remember that feeling and keep pursing it.
“If anyone ever had a doubt about Savannah Strong, yesterday you saw exactly what Savannah Strong is about. We must continue to talk, we must continue to protest, but we must start the work,” he said.
A huge turnout in downtown Savannah on Sunday as people from all walks of life united to remember George Floyd, seek justice and fight for equality. Mayor Johnson said the protest should not be the end. He announced a new blue ribbon task force to address inequity in our community.
"It's going to include some work. It's going to include some sweat equity. It's going to include some courageous conversations, but we are up to and ready for this task,” Mayor Johnson said.
The mayor said they are still working on the details of the task force, but they will look at data specific to Savannah about the disparities in our community. They'll discuss education, health, and law enforcement. That's something Savannah Police Chief Minter welcomes.
"That's what this is all about, about having open and honest dialogue in a respectful way between both parties so anything that helps us anything that helps our profession to become better we welcome,” Chief Minter said.
While the initial protest has wrapped up, city leaders say they are still watching the situation. While the mayor did not reinstate the curfew for Monday night, he said it's available if needed again. Chief Minter said law enforcement stands ready, too.
"We will continue to have additional personnel out on the street. We will continue to have some of our additional law enforcement partners here and we'll continue to monitor all the intelligence information that is coming in both locally and nationally,” Chief Minter said.
Mayor Johnson said looking at the data, Savannah did not experience the numbers of injuries, property damage and arrests that other cities in our region and across Georgia did. Chief Minter explained why he thinks that happened.
“I think the curfew played a big part in that. I think that the mayor’s very quick and decisive action in implementing the curfew, I think really went a long way in saving some businesses and possibly saving some people from injury out there,” Chief Minter said.
But that’s not to say police didn’t have any negative interactions with demonstrators. Mayor Johnson noted there were 16 arrests, and Chief Minter noted a couple of those people are active duty military.
The chief also said three people arrested also had guns on them, one of those a convicted felon. Chief Minter also addressed rumors about supplies being dropped around the protest site meant to be used to cause harm, like bags with bricks and other objects to be thrown.
“All the sources that we checked show that there was no validity to that. We never confirmed that there were any vandalism supplies that were dropped off, that there was anybody in our city who was actually looking at picking up things and dropping them off,” Chief Minter said.
The chief said there were three instances where pepper balls had to be used, but tear gas and rubber bullets were never used by police.
Mayor Van Johnson also made a passionate plea to the community Monday about gun violence in the city. He said police officers must be held accountable and so should people who take a life.
"We do have an issue with African-American males killing African-American males. That’s our work here. We will hold the police to their standard, but we need to hold our fathers, our brothers, our sons, and our nephews to the same standards. That if it’s wrong if a police officer does it. It’s wrong if you do it as well,” Mayor Johnson said.