In the wake of an almost entirely peaceful rally Sunday in memory of George Floyd, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson this afternoon said he would not renew a citywide curfew this evening.
"But I will not hesitate to do so if needed.... I retain a copy in my back pocket in case anything jumps off," Johnson said.
The 8 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew Sunday night into Monday morning is widely credited with helping calm unrest in Savannah during a time when dozens of other cities across the U.S. are having quite a different experience.
"I'm pleased to report that once again God has smiled upon this city of Savannah," Johnson said.
He described Sunday's peaceful protest as "a day in which Savannahians came together to say that we will protest as as community, we will be mad as a community, we will be upset as a community, but under no circumstances are we going to allow anyone to destroy our community.... it was a very clear clarion call to folks who were here, and many that were on their way to the mother city of Savannah, that they were not welcome, and we were not playing that crap in our city."
In all, there were 16 arrests yesterday. Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter said two of the 16 arrests were of active-duty members of the military, who have been turned over to their respective units for adjudication.
In all, at least three of the arrests were of people with home addresses outside Savannah. One is from Virginia. One arrest was of a person apparently preparing to throw a brick.
As for various rumors on social media that the outside protesters were either white supremacists or members of Antifa, Minter said "there is no indication" that any of the individuals were "part of any organized group that we are aware of."
Johnson said that as he spoke to various protesters throughout the day and evening, "there was a clear and definite shift from Savannahians to people who live nowhere near here and had no idea they were talking to the mayor of the city of Savannah."
Minter said that Johnson's "very quick and decisive" decision to enact the curfew Sunday night "went a long way to save some businesses and possibly save some people from injury."
Minter compared Savannah to the great unrest in Atlanta over the weekend.
"Atlanta did not have a curfew Friday night and things did not go well Friday night."
Johnson reiterated his call from the Sunday protest that rallying against racism was just the first step.
"Yesterday was the moment, today begins the movement," he said, stressing the difference between being non-racist and being actively anti-racist.
"We agree that there are inequities... and we have not always done the right thing as it relates to our citizens," he said. "We acknowledge it and the first step in addressing it is to own it."
Johnson said he will soon appoint a task force "to investigate and provide solutions for inequities and disparities of all kinds."