Atlantans Protest Ferguson Grand Jury; 26 Arrested
(APN) ATLANTA — Last week, some twenty-six Metro Atlantans, including two journalists, were arrested, during Atlanta protests in the wake of a grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
The decision was announced late Monday, November 24, 2014. On Tuesday, November 25, thousands of Metro Atlantans responded with numerous rallies and marches.
In the afternoon on November 25, Morehouse College students rallied on campus, then marched to the CNN Center, where they held a silent vigil, their fists raised in the air.
CNN has been the target of protest over what has been perceived to be pro-police media coverage of the killing.
At 7 p.m., over one thousand people gathered at Underground Atlanta for four hours of speeches, spoken word, music, and moments of silence.
“You don’t have to go to Ferguson to find police brutality. It’s right here in Georgia,” Mawuli Davis, a local civil rights lawyer, told the crowd.
Davis represented the family of Ariston Waiters, an unarmed Black teen murdered by a Union City police officer in 2011. A Fulton County Grand Jury failed to indict the officer, Luther Lewis.
That was just one case among many that Davis has taken on, involving police brutality against people of color in the Metro Atlanta region.
A speaker from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement told the crowd not to let their response to Michael Brown’s murder fade out.
“The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 384 days,” he said. “I think we can keep this up for a year.”
The crowd responded to every speaker with vigor, and hollered call-and-response chants like this one, adapted from a quote by Black Panther activist Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Towards the end of the rally at Underground, a march began at Woodruff Park. Other news outlets reported that dozens of marchers got onto the Downtown Connector near Edgewood Avenue and shut down traffic for about half an hour.
When police arrived, some members of the group threw rocks at them. The police made several arrests, setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
As people left Atlanta Underground, some joined the marchers, who by that point had vacated the Interstate. Several hundred people filled the streets of downtown.
A few people took direct action against objects, turning over trash cans, smashing a window at a Wells Fargo bank branch, and damaging a taxi cab.
One person threw a lit traffic flare at a police officer, burning him on the neck.
Police escalated their response, donning riot gear, using pepper spray, and arresting over forty people people by the end of the night. Only 26 people were booked. The rest were released after being held in police vans for several hours.
Two reporters–including John Ruch of Creative Loafing’s Fresh Loaf blog, and Tyson Paul of Channel 11 television news–were among those arrested, but charges against them were dropped.
Most of the arrests were for charges of “disorderly conduct” and “pedestrian in roadway.” One source said the window-smashers, rock-throwers, and garbage-can-topplers mostly avoided arrest, while people who did not do anything illegal were arrested at random as police became frantic.
By the early hours of Wednesday morning, November 26, all arrestees had been bailed out of jail. A complete list of those arrested appears below.
The next day of action came on November 28, 2014, known in popular culture as a shopping event, Black Friday.
Organizers of Tuesday’s speak-out at Underground Atlanta partnered with ATL Raise Up and Jobs With Justice Atlanta to rally at a Walmart store on Memorial Drive. The action united their respective struggles for racial and economic justice.
“Walmart is the focus because they have workers that bust their assess for more than forty hours a week and still have to get government assistance because they don’t get paid enough,” Mary Hooks, an organizer with Southerner’s On New Ground, told Atlanta Progressive News. Hooks had also emceed Tuesday’s speak-out at Underground and was at the Black Friday rally.
“We see hyper-policing at the same time that we see people underemployed and underpaid. We have state-sanctioned violence at the same time that we have the state refusing to expand the minimum wage so that people can be able to feed their babies. That creates a level of tension in communities. These are the circumstances and conditions that bred the Ferguson uprising, and they are happening in Atlanta and in cities and towns and rural communities all over the United States,” Hooks told APN.
Hooks went on to connect Walmart to the issue of police violence by talking about the case of John Crawford, a young Black man who was recently murdered by a police officer in a Walmart store in Ohio. Crawford was carrying a toy rifle that Walmart sells, when the officer shot him to death.
Walmart refused to release security camera footage of the murder to the victim’s family.
Hooks also pointed out that Walmart stores in Ferguson removed ammunition from their shelves in order to prevent Black people from arming and protecting themselves in the months following Michael Brown’s murder.
“I think it’s really clear that Walmart has taken a side to stand with state-sanctioned violence and police violence, rather than protect the workers and the people who actually shop there and spend their lives trying to make a living but retire with nothing,” Hooks said.
About sixty people gathered near the Walmart on Memorial Drive at 10 a.m. and marched into the store. Police officers forced them outside, where they reassembled in the parking lot and continued to chant such slogans as, “Walmart is a crime scene,” and “No justice, no profit, no money in their pockets.”
People held signs calling for a fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage, and union rights, alongside a huge banner that read “Black Lives Matter.”
Fifteen police cars and SUVs were on the scene, and dozens of police officers milled around. Eventually one officer announced that anyone remaining in the parking lot would be arrested. The rally then moved to the sidewalk along one of the store’s driveways.
Marquise Banks was there as an active member of ATL Raise Up’s fast food worker campaign. Banks works as a yard hand and makes six dollars per hour, which is below the federal minimum wage.
He got involved with the fast food campaign through his sister who makes 4.25 per hour, plus tips, working at a Sonic restaurant.
Banks also attended the speakout at Underground Atlanta on Tuesday. He says he experiences a strong connection between the issues racist police violence and poverty wages.
“I’m tired of getting the least of things,” Banks said. “I’m tired of being oppressed. I’m tired of Black people being oppressed. It’s time for us to show our colors. Ferguson did their part and now it’s time to do ours.”
No Walmart workers were on strike in Atlanta, unlike many other places across the country where the group OUR Walmart has mobilized workers to fight for better wages and working conditions.
But the Atlanta rally was like other Black Friday protests and strikes in that it connected the Michael Brown case to broader issues of economic and racial injustice.
Some actions were also linked to a campaign called Blackout Black Friday, a boycott aiming to make an economic impact in response to the Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision. Adherents of the boycott pledged to spend nothing on Black Friday, or to only spend at Black-owned business.
Atlanta Police arrests (Name, charge):
Samuel Ibanez, pedestrian in roadway
Sarah Garrett, pedestrian in roadway
Frank Leo, disorderly conduct
Corina Cruz, pedestrian in roadway
John Ruch, disorderly conduct
San Antonio Smith, pedestrian in roadway
Terrence Oxley, disorderly conduct X2
Nolan Jeter, disorderly conduct
Ronald Comeaux, disorderly conduct
Nile Bean, disorderly conduct
Anthony Turner, disorderly conduct
Austin Gates, wearing mask to conceal ID
Renzo Marches, disorderly conduct
Natasha Sanders, disorderly conduct
Wayne Perry, disorderly conduct
Corey Toole, pedestrian in roadway
Walter Paul, disorderly conduct
Thomas Dimassimo, disorderly conduct
Nicholas Lulofs, disorderly conduct
Michael Anthony, disorderly conduct
Michael Gartley, disorderly conduct
Kayla Richardson, disorderly conduct
Kai Adams, agg assault/pointing gun
Clarisa Tullis, pedestrian in roadway
Georgia State Police arrests (name, charge):
Frema Egyirba Awuku, disorderly conduct
Spenser Avery Gould, aggravated assault upon a peace officer/wearing a mask, hood, or device which conceals identity of wearer/obstruction of a law enforcement officer/interference with government property