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Atlanta activists reflect on one year after Rayshard Brooks was killed by police officer

“Getting justice for Rayshard Brooks is getting justice for everybody,” Atlanta activist Garry Stokes said.

ATLANTA — Today marks one year since the deadly shooting of Rayshard Brooks by an Atlanta police officer.

On June 12 of last year, officer Garrett Rolfe shot and killed Brooks in the Wendy’s parking lot located at 125 University Avenue SW.

That tragic incident ignited many nights of protests and demands for justice. The site is now fenced and barricaded. The Wendy’s was burned down during the protests last summer, and a month later, the restaurant was demolished. Now it serves as a reminder of that tragic night that took the life of the 27-year-old man.

Organizers in Atlanta planned a rally and events to honor the life and legacy of Brooks.

11Alive interviewed community activist Garry Stokes who was placing balloons at the location where Brooks was killed. Although it was fenced off, it didn’t stop the community from arriving at the location.

“This is to show everyone how we can still come together and make things better,” Stokes said.

Stokes spent two weeks, after the deadly shooting, protesting consecutively on University Avenue demanding justice for Brooks. A year later, he reflects on this one-year mark.

“As I stand here today and think about it, all I can do is look back and see where he took his last breath at, where he parked at, and how his life changed because Rayshard Brooks was trying to do the right thing,” he said.

Gerald Griggs, community organizer and member of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, says Rayshard Brooks’ case has brought attention to several other officer-involved shootings in Atlanta.

“Jimmy Atchison, Oscar Cain, Cain Rogers, Jamarion Robinson, just a few of the names here in Atlanta,” Griggs said.

Stokes is disappointed at the pace of the investigation. A trial date has not been set for officer Rolfe.

“Getting justice for Rayshard Brooks is getting justice for everybody,” he said.

The summer of protests ignited conversations about policing in Black neighborhoods, distrust for law enforcement, and police reform.

“They have to have more training because nobody looks up to the police anymore. Nobody looks up to their protection anymore,” Stokes expressed.

Griggs agrees.

“I think it’s important that we focus on the issue of police accountability. That’s the reason why we had the biggest protests in American history and the biggest protests in Atlanta history,” Griggs said.

Griggs says this case deserves the full attention of city leaders, the police department, and the community. The same amount of activists who protested last summer can once again hit the streets to demand justice for Rayshard Brooks.

“If you don’t want to see Freedom Summer 2021, you might want to get this one right,” he said.