APD Officers Run Motorcycle into Protesters, Charge Horse at Senior
With additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale.
(APN) ATLANTA — Over one hundred Atlanta Police were out in full force again on the night of Saturday, November 05, 2011, after Occupy Atlanta reoccupied Woodruff Park [also known as Troy Davis park] to redress their grievances that the current system continues to fail the people, and to demand real change.
During the APD response to Occupy Atlanta protesters, one officer literally rode his motorcycle into a group of protesters, causing outrage and a bit of a show-down, according to a video of the incident posted to Youtube and reviewed by Atlanta Progressive News.
Erin Connolly, an Emory student and frequent camper at the park, witnessed the incident, in which a motorcycle police officer hit a man from the front.
“The man, as well as the motorcycle and police officer, fell to the pavement. A crowd of people swarmed around the fallen pair, as the police moved in to arrest the man hit by the motorcycle. Several other people were knocked over by the police during this incident,” Connolly said.
“An officer on a motorcycle charged the crowd, striking and injuring one person,” Occupy Atlanta member “SaraA” wrote on their website. “Other people surrounded the motorcycle in order to stop it and tipped it over. The officer was unhurt.”
One protestor, Brandon Wojcik-Tremblay, 24, is accused of obstruction and assaulting a police officer for grabbing the handle bars of the motorcycle; he faces a possible felony charge.
Carlos Campos, an APD spokesman, acknowledged that the officer on the motorcycle made physical contact with the protesters.
But he said, “We dispute that he ran into anybody.”
“The pedestrians were on a street that was open for a traffic, they were on Peachtree St in downtown Atlanta, they were not on a sidewalk,” Campos said, although the officers themselves had cut off traffic before making arrests.
“I’ve heard witnesses say they jumped in front of the motorycle,” Campos said, although there is no video evidence that this happened.
“You also had blue signs and sirens activated,” Campos said.
In another incident, witnessed by APN, Doris Benit, 83, with Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, stood in front of a line of mounted police officers holding a sign that read “Solidarity.”
One mounted police officer told Benit and two others to get out of the street. Benit courageously did not move as the mounted police officer charged the horse toward her, stopping just one foot short of trampling the senior citizen.
It is not immediately clear whether the officer decided to stop short of trampling Benit, or whether the horse committed its own act of civil disobedience by stopping.
Campos said he was not aware of the incident involving Benit and the horse, and could not comment.
“If anyone feels they have been mistreated by an APD… they are welcome to file a complaint with the Office of Professional Standards. We don’t tolerate misconduct by our officers. If someone feels they were harmed physically, they are free to file a formal complaint,” Campos said.
Earlier, by 10:30pm, dozens of tents and over a hundred people were gathered in the park.
At 11:00 pm, closing time for the park, people began to pick up their tents and move to the sidewalk on Peachtree Street. The crowd overflowed into the street chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Power to the People.”
After walking about one block, motorcycle police arrived and drove up and down Peachtree Street, followed by police on horseback who stationed themselves at Auburn Avenue and Peachtree, in addition to forty or fifty police officers who were already at the park.
Helicopters again circled overhead; police buses parked on the street; and about fifty police in full riot uniform with padding, wearing helmets with face masks, and holding batons, arrived to make the evening of overpowering police presence complete.
APN witnessed a man and a young woman being handcuffed and removed from the street by the police. Another young man was thrown to the pavement while several policeman handcuffed him.
None of these people planned to be arrested; they were the unlucky ones who did not move out of the street fast enough as the riot police moved in.
Various videos show other arrests taking place.
A total of twenty arrests were made on Saturday, November 05, including nineteen persons who either would not leave the park after 11pm or who blocked city roads; and Wojcik-Tremblay, who was charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of a police officer.
Several others were grabbed by police, but got away. The protesters shouted “Shame,” “Who do you serve, who do you protect?” “Arrest the corporate criminals,” “The banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and “The whole world is watching” to the police.
It is endangers the lives of citizens for Atlanta Police officers on motorcycles and horses to charge through a crowd of people.
“Are you trying to kill us?” one person shouted.
“What we saw tonight is an overreaction by Mayor Reed and the police. We had peaceful protesters but the police overreaction escalated the situation,” Roger Sikes, with Atlanta Jobs with Justice, told APN.
“There were two people in the park after closing and over one hundred police came to arrest them and escort them out of the park,” Jason Woody with Occupy Atlanta noted.
Those arrested on November 05 include Stephanie Pharr, a photographer intern for Creative Loafing Atlanta; Alisen Redmond from the Sentinel at Kennesaw State University; and Judith Kim from the Signal at Georgia State University.
Chris Siedl and another person arrested last night were taken to Grady Hospital for injuries inflicted by the police before being taken to jail, according to Occupy Atlanta.
A total of three protesters were injured during arrests, Occupy Atlanta said in a subsequent statement.
Campos said he did not know of any injuries or why any protesters may have been taken to Grady but would inquire.
Diana Eidson, Assistant Director for Lower Division Studies at Georgia State University’s Department of English, was among those arrested.
Matt Lane, who had stopped by Anatolia, a downtown restaurant, for a late night snack, was arrested when he emerged from the restaurant. Lane was not previously part of Occupy Atlanta but is now considering joining up.
APN requested a full list of the names of those arrested this weekend and the respective charges, from Ashanti Moore, spokeswoman for the Fulton County jail. Moore said she would provide the names tomorrow.
Last night, Sunday, November 08, five people were arrested at Woodruff Park, including a young lady named Baily, who draped herself in a US flag; and four persons on bicycle.
Campos noted that while usually individuals commiting traffic violations usually get ticketed, that the APD has discretion over whether to arrest them or not.
OTHER RECENT DEVELOPMENTS WITH OCCUPY ATLANTA
For the last week, Occupy Atlanta has set up its headquarters at the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. The group has been helping to fix up an unused floor, the fourth floor, in the shelter to serve as Occupy Atlanta headquarters.
On Thursday, November 03, Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow/PUSH, while in town for a conference, joined with protesters for a press conference at the Task Force; and on Friday, November 04, participated in a demonstration with Occupy Atlanta at the downtown SunTrust bank headquarters.
The morning of Saturday, November 07, the Martin Luther King Center organized a nonviolence training event for twenty or thirty Occupy Atlanta members, as well.
World renowned leaders of Kingian nonviolence training, Dr. Bernard LaFayette and Captain Charles Alphin, Sr., led the workshop on nonviolent methods at the homeless shelter.