Thirteen Activists Arrested in Lenox Road Protest of Police Brutality
Photograph by Steve Eberhardt
(APN) ATLANTA — On Saturday, December 20, 2014, five days before Christmas, thirteen activists blocked the intersection at Lenox Road and Peachtree Street during heavy holiday traffic going to Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza to shop.
They shut down shopping as usual for ninety minutes to bring media attention to the increasing number of black men murdered by police and the failure of the grand jury system to indict.
The group lay down in the middle of the intersection, in a circle, with some joined together by PVC pipes and metal locks.
“As we laid in the street, we declared that all black lives matter… on our arms, we displayed the names of some of those killed–Tamir, Oscar, Aiyana, John III, Kathryn, Tarika, Kendrick, Rekia and Ervin–though sadly, we recognize that there are many, many more,” Rise Up Georgia said in a press statement.
The activists erected a ten foot tripod in the middle of the intersection where Nelini Stamp, Co-Director of Rise Up Georgia, sat on top of the tripod with her fist raised.
Many more supporters holding signs chanted, “I can’t breathe,” the last words Eric Garner said before he died as a result of a choke hold by a New York police officer, who was arresting him for selling loose cigarettes.
This was one of many such non-violent direct actions around Atlanta and the U.S. in the wake of the failed grand jury indictments of Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri for the shooting death of Michael Brown; and Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York, for the killing of Garner.
Rise Up Georgia cites examples of nonviolent civil disobedience actions that took place in the 1960’s in Atlanta, similar to what is happening today.
“These acts of nonviolent civil disobedience [in the 1960’s] were designed to disrupt commerce, shake up the status quo, and force the people of Atlanta to recognize and face the struggles experienced by African Americans in the city… We recognize now, as they did then, that in order to change the system we must shine a spotlight that cannot be ignored–one that challenges the status quo, and threatens the pocketbooks of the powerful,” the group said.
As expected, the Atlanta Police arrested the thirteen people laying in the street and they were taken to the Fulton County Jail.
They were charged with 16-11-43 obstructing highways, streets, sidewalks, or other public passages; and 16-11-33 unlawful assembly. They posted bail later that night and all were released the next day.
“We were held at the zone 2 police station for over four hours, handcuffed in zip ties, causing injuries to wrists and shoulders. We were denied access to make phone call [sic], while members of our group were singled out and interrogated by officers in an attempt to intimidate them and gather information without due process,” Rise Up Georgia said in the statement.
Rise Up Georgia’s full press statement can be read at http://bit.ly/shutdownptree
The arrestees are: Daniel Hanley, Drake Jones, Corin Warlick, Megan Morgan, Robert Andrews, Margaret Kraft, Latranese Sapp, Shabnam Bashiri, Shakia Pennix, Joel Solow, Rebekah Ward, Nelini Stamp, and Samuel Reed Gallman. All of the arrestees are under the age of 35, with the exception of Kraft, who is fifty.
“Atlanta’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement is in part what inspired us to take action on Saturday, and our experience in the process is what inspires us to continue. The attempts to intimidate, discredit, or threaten us only make our movement stronger. It’s up to the people of our city to decide now, as they did before, which side of history they wish to be on,” Rise Up Georgia statement concludes.
Some Metro Atlantans have complained about shoppers bring stuck in traffic and inconvenienced for a few hours because of this action. However, what needs to be understood is that this is a transformational movement, not a protest. Paradigm shifts will occasional cause inconveniences and will anger others, but these are the price of change, which must occur.
Police brutally that escapes responsibility is transforming the old street chant, “No justice, no peace,” into an acute reality across the U.S., as a new generation of civil rights activists continue to disrupt business as usual at corporate locations.
Some civil rights leaders have been urging people to boycott corporate retail malls, and instead buy from locally-owned, Black small businesses.
The killings of Brown and Garner are the sparks that have ignited the smoldering embers of racial tension and injustice, which have now grown into a nationwide movement demanding change, refusing to be ignored, and declaring loudly that “Black lives matter.”
Some of the changes sought by activists are to change the grand jury system that is appears to be broken, as it repeatedly allows killer cops to go free; to change the way police are trained; to change the shoot to kill mentality; to change Stand Your Ground laws; and to end the so-called War on Drugs.
Others seek to change a whole dysfunctional justice system that looks the other way when police officers, and Wall Street and government elites commit crimes, but allows the mass incarceration of poor people, Blacks, addicts, homeless people, immigrants, mentally ill people, and other disenfranchised citizens.
The least little infraction of the law like selling cigarettes, walking in the street while Black, or a Black child holding a toy gun, can get Black people killed. This is why so many Black citizens are afraid of the police who are supposed to be protecting them.
All these unending murders are why some citizens are blocking roads, marching in the streets, staging die-ins at malls, going to city council meetings, lobbying, being arrested, and going to jail to wake up others to the urgent need for change now.