Happening Now: Occupy Atlanta Occupying Woodruff Park
(APN) ATLANTA — Occupy Atlanta, the Atlanta branch of the Occupy Together movement, has occupied Woodruff Park, following a General Assembly, which began earlier today at 6pm, Friday, October 07, 2011.
A group of 150 activists decided to stay in the park past the 11pm closing time and are still in the park as of the time of publication of this article, Tim Franzen, activist with the American Friends Service Committee, said, adding that Atlanta Police had begun to circle the park on motorcycles and with wrist ties. Franzen said some activists were prepared to link arms and get arrested tonight.
Activist Joe Beasley of African Ascension told Atlanta Progressive News that he did not think there would be arrests tonight because the park closed at 11pm and, in his experience, the police would have made the arrests then if they were going to.
The AFSC building on Walton Street has also been serving as a 24-hour organizing space for the movement.
Earlier today, Occupy Atlanta held a General Assembly at the park, and about seven hundred people attended.
Occupy Together is a new, young, and vital movement that is emerging in major US cities around the nation. They call themselves the ninety-nine percent that has been left behind and left out, while the one percent control vast amounts of wealth and took even more during the great transfer of wealth in 2008.
Prior to the current economic crisis, Wall Street ran amuck, without regulations, and the banks gambled away their resources in a frenzy of blind greed never before seen. Everyone lost except the CEO’s and upper echelon of the corporate world.
Occupy Together is the beginning of a movement to hold Wall Street accountable for crashing our economy and throwing millions of families out of their homes. The ninety-nine percenters are aware that most of our elected representatives only represent the interest of the rich and powerful and not the people. The only thing that has “trickled down” has been unemployment, foreclosures, and homelessness.
During the General Assembly, a crowd of about seven hundred people encircled the facilitators. They announced: We are not Republicans, Democrats or any other party. We are the people and we have found our voice.
A sampling of the signs people carried read: “If we lose America then we have lost it to the Elite,” “Corporations are not the People,” “Bring the Jobs back – Made in USA,” “No more $21 Million Bonus,” “Corporate Greed is Destroying American,” and “Money for Jobs not War.”
State Senators Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), and US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) were spotted in the crowd.
US Rep. Lewis wanted to speak to the gathering but the leaders wanted consensus from the crowd to allow him to speak which was not reached.
The majority wanted to let Lewis speak at the beginning of the assembly but a minority wanted him to speak after the General Assembly finished reviewing their protocol with the crowd. Lewis had another appointment and could not stay until the end. The more mature and seasoned activists thought this was a missed opportunity to not allow Lewis to speak at the beginning.
Franzen told APN the decision to not allow Lewis to speak was motivated in part by the movement wanting to distance itself from the Democratic Party and the old leadership, to not be coopted like the Tea Party movement, and to reinforce the idea that everyone was equal. However, he noted that several Black activists who came to the General Assembly were upset.
APN observed some of the activists left frustrated at that point.
The General Assembly passed out their draft of demands and read their preamble: We hold this truth to be self-evident that the 99% deserve equal rights, equal protections, equal access and equal opportunity as the 1% who benefit disproportionately from the current system. We therefore freely assemble to assert our rights and demands:
1. We demand greater democratic control in all spheres of life, from the home to the government, from the economy to the workplace. It is a moral, logical and political imperative that people should be in control of their own lives to the greatest extent possible.
2. We deserve an economic system that meets human needs, reduces economic inequality, shrinks the income gap, and doesn’t reward decisions that have a negative impact on society.
3. We recognize that the market will not regulate itself. What is good for profit is not always good for people or the environment.
4. We assert the right of every human being to adequate shelter, food, clothing, hygiene and other basic necessities.
5. We assert the right of every individual to adequate protection from the economic uncertainties of old age, accident, unemployment and other hardship.
6. We denounce all predatory lending and fraudulent banking practices and demand accountability.
7. We recognize that no society should allocate more resources to warfare than to the public good.
8. We demand a more democratic, publicly representative and accountable media.
9. We insist that the internet is a basic human right and as such should remain absolutely free and neutral.
10. We assert our right to public spaces and our right to freely inhabit them because they are essential to democracy and our right to assemble.
11. We denounce a criminal justice and for-profit prison system that relies on mass incarceration, especially when it reinforces the marginalization and disenfranchisement of people.