Atlantans Rally against Police Brutality

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police1(APN) ATLANTA — A group of nearly 70 students, community activists, and victims of police brutality rallied at downtown’s Woodruff Park and marched to the Atlanta Detention Center on Thursday, October 22, 2009, as part of the annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.

Similar events took place in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Kansas City, and elsewhere.

Atlanta organizers highlighted recent incidents of police brutality in Georgia, including the Atlanta Police Department (APD) raid on the Eagle, a gay bar, in September; the APD killing of Montellis Clark with 39 bullets in July; and the APD’s point-blank shooting of Tramaine Miller in May while he was in his car.

“Police murder and brutality is a national epidemic,” Justin Carter, a leading activist, told Atlanta Progressive News. “We’re not going to accept any more stolen lives.”police2

Dean Steed, an activist with the Georgia State University chapter of the Revolution Club, argued more and more Americans have to contend with a “rigged” legal system which does not give ordinary people a fair chance.

“If you let this go on, next time it might be you,” she said.

During the rally and after the march, people had a chance to share personal police harassment stories.

Felicia Kennedy, a West End resident, said she witnessed APD officers “stomping and beating” an unarmed suspect “multiple times” outside her home.

“It was the most gross display of human behavior I have ever seen,” she said.

After retrieving her camera, Kennedy began taking pictures of the incident. According to Kennedy, one of the officers “forcefully” confiscated the camera and “manhandled” her into handcuffs.

police3“These are the people we’re paying to protect us,” Kennedy said.

The incident led Kennedy to join with neighbors to form the West End Community Initiative, a group that is on the watch for police brutality.

“Don’t let… little ideological differences stop us from banding together to stop this brutality,” she said.

Omari Khalfani, a veteran of the U.S. Army and Snellville resident, shared with APN a letter he sent to President Obama in which he recounts a January run-in with two officers.

According to his letter, two White police officers had a Black man in handcuffs bent over the back of a squad car when Khalfani drove by slowly. One of the officers “angrily” urged him to move along.

Khalfani returned a short time later and asked the officer why he had motioned him on.

“To my surprise, he began angrily yelling at me and showing his agitation with my questioning him,” Khalfani wrote. “I told him that I had a right to ask questions and I was going to leave before this situation got out of hand.”

As he began to drive away, the officer grabbed Khalfani by the neck and arm through the open car window, told him to get out of his car, and placed him under arrest.

“After being at the jail for several hours, I learned they were charging me with not wearing a seat belt, obstructing traffic, not showing my driver’s license, and a claim by the policeman that jumped on my car that I ran over his foot,” Khalfani wrote.

Khalfani maintains he “always” wears his seatbelt and that the officer “never asked me for my license.”

Police released Khalfani on bond later that night. Khalfani has hired an attorney and is awaiting trial.

“What are we going to do to change things?” he asked the crowd Thursday. “There’s no respect for us in this country. If you see something going on, speak up, say something.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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