Former Mayor of Atlanta, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and civil rights leader Andrew Young denounced the violent riots on Friday in an interview with CNN. Young lamented that the story has become about violence and frustration and the real message has been lost.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: I’m joined now by former Atlanta mayor and former ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. It’s an honor to have you on, Ambassador. You tweeted earlier, quoting you here, “I did my demonstrating for many years. If I wasn’t so old and weak, I’d be down there with them now,” speaking about what — what unfolded in Atlanta. Tell us why. ANDREW YOUNG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I tell you. This was really a tragic incident. And yet, I wanted to be down there to tell them that a demonstration has to stop as orderly as it begins. And that’s a tragedy, that we had a beautiful demonstration going on about 6 o’clock. And it was multiracial. It was mothers and their children. And they were orderly and quiet and peaceful and — and then, they went on about their business. But then another group tagged along. And I don’t know what — they were not a part of the original demonstration, it seems. And yet, they — they disrupted the whole purpose of the demonstration. HOLMES: And what damage does that do to the justifiable grievance of the main group? YOUNG: Well, it doesn’t do any good but does a lot of harm. Minneapolis had begun to move. They fired four policemen. And they’ve indicted one. And we have had a pretty good relationship between our young people and the police force here in Atlanta and for many, many years. But school is out. And normally, demonstrations would be organized on college campuses, where students would be responsible. This one was just a sort of social media meet-up. And everybody showed up, with no training, with no understanding of the plan and with no understanding that a demonstration has to start and stop, getting the same message across. YOUNG: I’m afraid people lost the real message. And now, the story is only the disruptions and the violence and the frustration. So in a way, the people who tagged along after, who, for the most part, were not a part of the demonstration, actually had a counterproductive demonstration that put our city in turmoil and did significant damage. HOLMES: You know, when you — when you look at the scenes, not just in Atlanta. I mean, across the country in many, many places, you see this anger. The George Floyd death, you know, is horrendous. But do you see a bigger picture here of systemic issues that haven’t been addressed? You know, I heard Cornel West put it earlier that chickens are coming home to roost in some ways. Your thoughts on that? YOUNG: My thoughts are that this has always been true. But after Martin Luther King’s death, there was the same kind of outcry and violence, unplanned and disorganized. But it confused the issue so much that it ended up being counterproductive. We ended up burning down 20 cities almost and mostly our own neighborhoods. So a demonstration — and, you know, the sit-ins — and I can remember John Lewis and the college students. But before they started demonstrating, they studied nonviolence for almost three months. And I’ve heard a young man making a comparison between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. But Malcolm X never did anything violent in his life. He basically had a militant message but he never hurt a soul. In fact, he was one of the most gentle spirits I know. HOLMES: I wanted to ask you, how important is, you know, political leadership at — at this moment? I mean, when you look at the response from the White House, the president’s tweets and comments calling protesters “thugs” and so on, how important is leadership at a time like this? YOUNG: Well, the leadership, this is one time I agree, the leadership needs to come from the cities. And I think our mayor stepped up. And a number of the other efforts that I was very proud of, their statements. The city of Atlanta is — is — is pretty well organized around nonviolent approaches and political approaches to social change. And — and so that’s what’s important. I think, though, that the climate, nationally, is such that the overall protests could have a very negative effect. HOLMES: Ambassador, really appreciate you coming on. I — I really am. I know it’s been a long day for you. Ambassador Young, thank you so much.