Andrew Young apologized today for calling some protesters "unlovable little brats" when he spoke to Atlanta police officers last weekend.
"I apologize if I got overemotional,” Young told Channel 2 Action News.
He said the comment was directed only at the young demonstrators who tried to provoke police and those who tried to run onto the Downtown Connector, putting lives in danger.
Young's remarks drew criticism from several quarters, even from his granddaughter.
“She said she was ashamed of me and she said, ‘You ought to know better,’” Young said.
Among his other critics was the president of the Georgia NAACP, who invited Young to “go quickly and quietly into a well-deserved retirement” after after his remarks on Sunday.
Young was meeting with a group of Atlanta police officers during the height of protests over the shootings of black civilians by police, when he made the “little brats” remark. He quickly added, “but you still got to love them anyway and you got to understand them.”
The extraordinary résumé of the 84-year-old Young — lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., congressman, U.N. ambassador, two-term Atlanta mayor, businessman — affords him the opportunity to speak out where and when he pleases. But his meeting with Atlanta police officers did not sit well with some who usually count themselves as admirers.
“While not discounting Andrew Young’s historical contributions to this nation’s progress, Mr. Young cannot cloak himself with the memory of Dr. 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,” state NAACP President Francys Johnson said in a statement Monday.
Johnson said Young should demand an end to police shootings of black Americans or “go quickly and quietly into a well-deserved retirement.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Johnson said he has enormous respect for Young but simply disagrees with him in this instance.
“To speak truth to power, which is what we are called to do in the NAACP, means that sometimes you speak uneasy truth to people you love,” Johnson said.
“Mr. Young should remember that in their time, there were folks in the civil rights community who were telling them they were moving too fast, that they were asking for too much, that their tactics were extreme,” he said. “Although we love Mayor Reed and respect him, and we love Andy Young and respect him, I love truth more. And these young people are telling us something, if only we’ll listen.”
In an hourlong session at the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 4 offices during the weekend, Young exhorted police officers to remain composed when they face Black Lives Matter and other demonstrators on the streets. He thanked them for their service and said, “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.”
On a video of the session posted on the APD’s Facebook page, Young sits around a table with the officers and begins with a prayer:
“All the burdens of the world seem to be coming down on those of us who know that we’ve been doing a good job,” he said. “And yet we, too, are put to the test. We thank you that you have strengthened us that we might pass each and every test.
“We pray that you will make us strong enough, to care enough, to see clearly enough, the way that you would have us lead this city, and protect this city from all those harmful and evil and confused influences that seek to work against all the good that we do.”
On the NAACP president’s Facebook page, a woman named Chenice Filmore added a comment:
“Yes speak out! I talked to members of my church this Sunday. Our elders need to stop looking down on us!”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.