Georgian activists, community members and clergy are calling for the resignation of Savannah Mayor Van Johnson following the police killing of Saudi Arabian Arai Lee, a black man who was shot dead by a police officer from Savannah on June 24.
Lee, 31, was the sixth man shot by police in Chatham County this year.
“The mayor is doing nothing to reform his police department,” Elder James Johnson said at a press conference Saturday before a march to City Hall, according to Savannah’s Morning News. “Then he has to resign or he has to be eliminated. As simple as that.”
A vocal group of more than 20 protesters marched two miles from Savannah’s historic Carver Village to City Hall, chanting “Van must go.”
However, Mayor Johnson said of the protesters, “I don’t know what city they live in, but police reform is something we do every day.”
Johnson said some of the reforms included increasing officers’ base pay to $50,000 and creating a behavioral health unit that helps those in mental distress or suffering from mental illness. The city has also created an office for neighborhood safety and engagement.
However, Johnson pointed to other killings in the city, saying, “Black lives taken by black lives on our streets must also count.” Of the police shootings, the mayor said: “If any of our officers are responsible, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
But members of the Carver Village community in West Savannah note that Lee was unarmed and had a concealed weapons permit, which he showed to police. According to the official report from authorities, after a short chase, Lee was shot by officer Ernest Ferguson – who locals say has a history of harassing black men.
“I’ve seen so many videos of him dragging people, throwing people against the wall,” Lee’s uncle Timothy Lee said.
Agent Ferguson is on paid administrative leave while the Georgia Bureau of Investigations investigates Lee’s shooting.
Protesters are calling on the Savannah Police Department, GBI and Chatham County District Attorney’s Office to release the dash cam and body camera footage of the shooting.
Outside City Hall, church elder Johnson said, “If you have nothing to hide, then release the videos.
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