ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia NAACP is criticizing civil rights icon Andrew Young for calling some demonstrators “unlovable little brats” in a speech to Atlanta officers, saying Young should instead join the protesters in demanding police reform.
Young made the comments while meeting with Atlanta police officers at a police station over the weekend. He gave a morale-boosting talk to the officers and thanked them for their efforts during recent Atlanta demonstrations after black men were killed by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota.
In a news release late Monday, the Georgia NAACP said Young should use his clout to demand changes in police practices in the U.S. or “go quickly and quietly into a well-deserved retirement.”
“While not discounting Andrew Young’s historical contributions to this nation’s progress, Mr. Young cannot cloak himself with the memory of Dr. (Martin Luther) King and expect that serious students of the civil rights movement will not call foul on his statements denigrating legitimate protest only to appease his establishment and corporate friends,” Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, said in the statement.
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A spokeswoman for Young didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Tuesday.
The Atlanta Police Department posted a video of Young’s entire 67-minute meeting with the officers on its Facebook page. After Young described some demonstrators as “unlovable little brats,” he immediately added, “but you still got to love them anyway and you got to understand them.”
Young repeatedly urged the officers not to lose their cool.
“The thing I need to say to the protesters is they don’t know how lucky they are to have a well-trained, sensitive, respectful police force like we do here. And they need to be saying thank you,” Young told the officers.
Young also decried the militarization of police elsewhere, saying that smart decision-making is key to effectively policing major cities.
“Policing has always been more about brains than about brawn, and you solve more problems with your minds than you ever have with a stick or gun,” Young told the officers.
Demonstrators have poured onto city streets for several days in Atlanta to protest the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by white officers in Minnesota and Louisiana. While there have been a handful of arrests, the protests have generally been peaceful and police generally have been passive, working only to keep demonstrators off major highways.
Unlike protests in places like Baton Rouge, police in Georgia have generally not worn armor or riot gear, or been armed with long guns.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said police showed “extraordinary restraint” during several earlier nights of protests in Atlanta.