Rapper Killer Mike Tearfully Says 'We Want to See Systemic Racism Burnt to the Ground' in Plea
"It is your duty to fortify your own house, so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization," the rapper said in a press conference
As protests in Atlanta over the killing of George Floyd continued to erupt on Friday night, rapper Killer Mike gave a tearful address urging rioters to resist the temptation to destroy their own city.
The Atlanta-born artist, who joined Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Police Chief Erika Sheilds and fellow rapper T.I., offered non-violent ways to approach the national protests.
While he has "a lot of love and respect for police officers," Killer Mike, whose father was an Atlanta police officer in the 1940s, said witnessing Floyd's death made him "mad as hell."
"Here we are 80 years later, and I watched a white officer assassinate a black man, and I know that tore your heart out," the rapper said of Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck.
The 45-year-old rapper tearfully explained that he is "tired of seeing black men die," comparing what the officer did to Floyd to "a zebra in the clutch of a lion's jaw."
“So that’s why children are burning it to the ground. They don’t know what else to do. And it is the responsibility of us to make this better right now," he continued. "We don’t want to see one officer charged, we want to see four officers prosecuted and sentenced. We don’t want to see targets burning, we want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.”
Killer Mike said that while he also "wanted to see the world burn," he pled that the protestors "not burn your own house down for anger with an enemy."
"It is your duty to fortify your own house, so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. And now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize,” he said. “It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth. It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs. Atlanta is not perfect, but we’re a lot better than we ever were, and we’re a lot better than cities are."
He went on to tell viewers about how they can instead take action in the means of political change.
"Two of the most effective ways, is first, taking your butt to the computer and making sure you fill out your census to make sure people know where you are and who you are. The next thing is to exercise your political bully power and go into political elections, and beating up the politicians that you don't like," he explained. "Now is the time to do that. But it is not time to burn down your own home."
The musician's publicist, Jennifer R. Farmer, tells PEOPLE: "It's been said, that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What you witnessed last night was a heart overflowing with pain and frustration of being constantly told to wait on freedom. Freedom is not just being able to walk around unencumbered. It is being able to live without fear that one will be gunned down without reprisal or justice. It is knowing that you can earn a living wage and care for yourself and family. It is seeing an end to systemic racism. Watching Black men and women, even children, killed by police over and over again is heartbreaking and it is heavy. It is especially difficult to be asked to process one’s emotions on an open stage. This is not a theoretical exercise. It is a lived one. At this time, Mike will not make further comment. We know that this issue is important and we urge you to go to grassroots leaders and seek comment from them."
Farmer adds, "Examples include Next Level Boys Academy in Atlanta, Latonya Gates of PAW Kids in Atlanta, Zakiya Sankara Jabar out of Maryland. Rev. Ben McBride and Pastor Michael McBride out of Oakland, Mary Hooks with Southerners on New Ground in Atlanta, Ash-Lee Henderson of the Highlander Center in Tennessee. Montague Simmons out of St. Louis. These are people, and the organizations they represent, are doing the heavy lifting and we recognize and applaud their leadership."
Another Atlanta-area celebrity, Tyler Perry, weighed in on the protests, agreeing that people need to "stop this violence."
"Please, please stop this violence!! Looting is NOT THE ANSWER!!!!" he wrote across his social media platforms Saturday.
Perry added, "And listen to me, be careful where you are getting your information to JOIN protests!! There are people and other countries who are posting things pretending to be US, pretending to stand for peaceful protest, but they are trying to incite us into violence and chaos to try and do more harm!!"
Mayor Bottoms decried the protests on Friday. "What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is chaos," she said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Consitution. "A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn't do this to our city," she said. "If you want change in America, go and register to vote. ... That is the change we need in this country."
Just after midnight, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, and called on the national guard to deploy up to 500 guardsmen to the area. He wrote on Twitter that the decision was made at the request of Lance Bottoms.
Protests over racial injustice and police brutality started earlier this week in Minneapolis after footage of Floyd with an officer's knee on his neck surfaced online.
The Minneapolis police officer in the video — identified as Derek Chauvin — has been fired and was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.
Public dissent over racial inequality and police violence continues to spread in major cities across the nation. Though Minneapolis remains the epicenter, there have been protests in at least 30 other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Jose, Denver, and Washington D.C.