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D.C., Atlanta mayors call for calm, say 'solution is not to destroy our cities'

“This is more of a systemic issue we are facing that will take time to address," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told NBC's "Meet the Press."

WASHINGTON — Amid nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the mayors of two major cities on Sunday urged those participating to remain peaceful, calling the destruction of property not a productive solution to the frustrations.

“We’re sending a very clear message to people that they have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, but not to destroy our city," Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said in an exclusive interview on "Meet the Press."

"We saw a level of just destruction and mayhem among some that was maddening.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms connected with the frustration of those protesting police misconduct, adding that there are “no easy answers” as to the “systemic issue.”

“We know the frustration is still there," she told "Meet the Press," adding, "and all the issues and all the concerns and anger that were there on Friday haven’t gone away.”

“This is more of a systemic issue we are facing that will take time to address. Certainly, acknowledging the deaths of so many innocent people in America — there are no easy answers but as Mayor Bowser says: The solution is not to destroy our cities.”

Floyd died last Monday after a police officer in Minnesota kept his knee to Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest, despite Floyd's pleas that he couldn’t breathe. In widely shared video of the incident, onlookers can be heard telling the officer to stop.

The officer was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and three other officers involved in the arrest were fired the day after Floyd's death.

Floyd’s death has sparked widespread protests across the country, some resulting in clashes with police.

President Donald Trump has taken a tough posture toward the protests on Twitter, arguing that the “thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd” and that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a comment used by a Miami police chief during civil rights protests in the late 1960s.

Trump tried to walk that comment back, arguing that “it was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.” And during Friday afternoon remarks, he said that “the family of George is entitled to justice” and that “it should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that.”

On Saturday, Trump addressed the Friday night protests outside the White House by tweeting that if anyone had made it onto White House property, they would “have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”

In response to Trump’s comments, Bowser said “the president has a responsibility to help calm the nation.”

“He can start by not sending divisive tweets that are meant to harken to the segregationist past of our country,” she said.

And Lance Bottoms connected Trump’s recent comments to his widely criticized response to the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“What I’d like to hear from the president is leadership. And I would like to hear a genuine care and concern for our communities and where we are with race relations in America,” she said.

“We know that when he spoke on Charlottesville, he made the matter worse. And we’re well beyond the tipping point in America.”