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Mayor Bottoms cites no intent to enforce social distancing, under query from Councilmember Bond

piedmont park, social distance

Piedmont Park before the Coronavirus (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By David Pendered

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has no immediate intent to penalize individuals who break the social distancing laws, she said Thursday in response to a question by Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond.

Bond to Bottoms:

piedmont park, social distance

Visitors to Piedmont Park are not practicing social distancing, as required by an order in Atlanta, according to Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond. Credit: Kelly Jordan (Photo predates pandemic)

  • “The question is, ‘When is enough, enough’?
  • “When will see the government take a stand and send a message to the community, to send a message to the people, to make it serious? …
  • “I’m begging you … particularly since you’ve been so noble in criticizing the governor, for criticizing what I believe is his capricious stance in opening.”

Bottoms to Bond:

  • “Your concerns have been noted….
  • “We are continuing to balance the need for people to get out and use the BeltLine as a public transportation corridor, with very obvious health concerns.
  • “My stance continues to be that we will continue to daily evaluate, and make decisions accordingly.”

Atlanta’s city code establishes a penalty for violating the city’s stay-at-home order. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

The exchange between Bond and Bottoms occurred during a teleconference involving the mayor and members of the Atlanta City Council. Bond prefaced his remarking by advising the mayor that he has concerns about crowds that ignored social distancing guidelines as they gathered along the Atlanta BeltLine and in Piedmont Park, which he said he had visited in recent days.

mayor, tmz

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on TMZ that her strict rules about stay-at-home during the pandemic extend to children in her own household. Credit: tmx.com

The timing of the exchange coincides with Bottoms’ rising presence on the national stage. Bottoms appears to be positioning herself as a Democratic mayor opposed to Republican-led initiatives on the virus, and as a potential member of a Joe Biden presidency – with her name joining that of former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as a possible running mate.

Bottoms’ recent appearances include:

Atlantic magazine

  • “In a normal world, we could look to the president of the United States and receive sound, practical advice. Instead, we have to caution people not to ingest and inject their bodies with household cleaners. …
  • “We should also recognize that many of the kinds of businesses that are reopening are especially popular in African American neighborhoods, where barbershops and hair salons are ubiquitous. This concerns me because we continue to see much higher rates of infection and death occurring among African Americans than in other communities.”

The Rachel Maddow Show

  • “The governor has said this is about the economy and, unfortunately, the people who will be the test case for whether we have gotten it right are the people who can least afford to be sick and are more likely to die.”

MSNBC, with Brian Williams

mayor's twitter feed

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ has taken an increasing role in the discussion related to governance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: atlantaga.gov

  • “Although the state may be heading in one direction, as private biz owners we certainly have the ability to go in a different direction. As it relates to our small businesses, that’s a very different discussion because many people are making this decision based purely on economics and the ability to put food on their table.”


  • “What I said to my 18 year old is., ‘If you leave this house, you better pack a bag that will last you throughout the pandemic, because you will not be coming back in here. So he’s home.”

The mayor has not exercised authority to impose penalties for violating her executive orders related to COVID-19. The mayor’s declaration of an emergency situation within the city has been ratified by the city council.

A violation of any provisions of the order is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail, or home confinement, or work on any of the city’s public works projects, according to the citation in Atlanta’s code of ordinances.

Bottoms’ emergency order does not contain the language about penalties.

The order does note the mayor has the authority to impose a curfew and to “close city streets and sidewalks and to delineate areas within the city wherein an emergency exists.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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