Rethinking the 'Occupy' Movement in Atlanta
1 year ago
Was 'Occupy Atlanta' allowed to slide because it's mostly white?
Troy Davis Park, which was until two weeks ago known as Woodruff Park, sits at an odd angle on Peachtree Street and Edgewood Avenue – two of the main thoroughfares in downtown Atlanta. A little more than a century ago the area where the park stands became ground zero in the 1906 race riot that claimed dozens of black lives and scarred the black business district that once thrived there. Most days now it serves as an overlooked municipal greenspace near Georgia State University where homeless people gather and street vendors hawk tourist merch. That is until two weeks ago when Occupy Atlanta arrived with a multitude of tents. It’s now where young activists began organizing media and medical camps, and where the space has been unofficially renamed in honor of a man murdered by the state of Georgia a month ago.
Last week, Atlanta Mayor (and my Howard University classmate) Kasim Reed issued a deadline that Occupy Atlanta had to evacuate the park by 5 p.m. this past Monday. For his part, the mayor was in an uncomfortable position – faced with complaints from local business owners, he was contemplating arresting peaceful activists in a city that built its reputation as home to the most famous peace activist in the world.
An hour before the deadline roughly 200 people were camped out, the grounds dotted with tents, information tables and clusters of young activists sitting cross-legged in circles. On the northern end representatives from the AFL-CIO, a few local affiliates and a cross-section of labor rights organizations took turns explaining why it was crucial for their groups to support the Occupy movement. A few hundred feet away a group of college-aged activists were singing improvised protest songs and an elderly man shouted semi-coherent declarations about his grandfather, racism and white people in general.
Aside from the spectacle, though, Atlanta was its rush-hour normal and the only official presence were the widely loathed parking enforcement officers who found a windfall in ticketing people who’d come out to observe the demonstration. By 5:15 it was clear that Occupy ATL had been head-faked by the mayor, who extended the deadline for their exodus from the park.