ANALYSIS: Mayor’s Closed Meeting with Protesters Likely Violated Open Meetings Law
(APN) ATLANTA — A meeting held yesterday, Monday, July 18, 2016, between organizers of recent protests against police violence; and City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Police Chief Turner, Atlanta City Councilmembers, and others, appears to have turned into what constituted, at minimum, a closed and un-advertised meeting of one of the Council’s committees, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
The Mayor insisted at a press conference afterwards that a quorum of the City Council was not present, when asked by a reporter about the potential for a quorum and why the meeting was closed when major policy issues were discussed.
According to Dexter Chambers, Council spokesperson, Council President Ceasar Mitchell attended, along with CT Martin (District 10), Felicia Moore (District 9), Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), Kwanza Hall (District 2), and possibly others.
Because Dickens, Archibong, Bond, and Hall are all four members of the Community Development (CD/HR) Committee, and because issues of gentrification and community development were being discussed, the meeting should have been open. OCGA 50-14-1, et seq.
Whenever a quorum of a Council Committee gathers, and it does not constitute one of the exceptions enumerated in the Act–for trips to regional conferences, for example–then it counts as a “meeting” under the Act. “Meetings” must be pre-advertised and open to the public; and an agenda and minutes should be posted.
Not only was the meeting closed; key organizers of the recent Black Lives Matter protests say the Mayor did not keep his promise for transparency in an open public meeting.
The four organizers–Avery Jackson, Auriella Williams, Seyoum Bey, and Taiza Troutman–say their agreement with Mayor Reed and Atlanta Police Department Chief George Turner in the command vehicle on Monday night, July 11, 2016 was for a transparent, open public meeting.
But when the four organizers, along with dozens of activists, arrived at Atlanta City Hall, it was not the open meeting agreed upon, but a private, invitation-only meeting.
The news media were not allowed inside, but could attend a press conference afterward with Mayor Reed and Chief Turner.
In attendance were approximately sixty to seventy people, including the Mayor’s full cabinet; several Councilmembers; several city departments and agencies; the Atlanta Housing Authority; Atlanta Workforce Development Authority; Atlanta Development Authority; representatives of the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); Police Chief Turner; police officers; and even the musician Usher.
Not invited were all the activists who have been organizing, participating in, and supporting the recent protests in Atlanta – the very people whose complaints about police brutality were supposed to have been the impetus for the meeting itself.
The four organizers walked out of the meeting and joined other activists outside.
“This meeting is not about us, it’s about how the Mayor can look good. He is meeting behind closed doors without input from the people most affected,” Avery Jackson, part of a coalition called #ATLisReady, said outside City Hall.
“The people took it to the street because they are still killing us… and we will continue until they stop killing us,” Jackson said.
“Kasim Reed is not for the people” the crowd chanted.
“We refused to meet behind closed doors… Kasim Reed has always played exclusively to the needs and voices of the few in private,” #ATLisReady said in a statement.
At the press conference after the meeting, Mayor Reed said “the reason the meeting was closed was because that is what we agreed to in the command truck.”
Mayor Reed said he disagrees with a large amount of their demands, but will execute whatever Chief Turner says he can.
Standing next to Mayor Reed was Sir Maejor Page, President of the Greater Atlanta Black Lives Matter, which consists of only a few members, according to several sources.
Maejor has given several media interviews, but he does not represent or speak for original Atlanta BLM chapter or the organizing collective #ATLisReady.
The Mayor and Chief Turner propped up Sir Maejor Page as representing the BLM movement, when they know he does not represent the movement.
Last night, Monday, July 19, I-20 was blocked at Hill Street to lift up activists’ demands, which are as follows:
The people demand a complete overhaul of Atlanta Police Department’s (APD) training institutions, and instead utilize models based on de-escalation rather than militarized tactics that aid or perpetuate mass incarceration.
We demand a termination to APD’s involvement in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, that trains our officers in Apartheid Israel.
We demand implementation of mandatory bias training audits.
We demand APD require community outreach hours for officers in assigned zones.
The people demand an immediate end to Operation Whiplash, the collaboration between the Atlanta Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and all practices of racial profiling that unjustly target and punish Black, Latino, and other communities of color.
We demand APD discontinue the practice of holding individuals on the basis of ICE detainers.
We demand citywide abolition of “No-Knock” Warrants.
We demand a decrease in school police presence.
We demand that the engagement of private probation firms be made illegal in the City of Atlanta.
The people demand that expanded mechanisms be implemented to hold police officers accountable for killing civilians, and measures taken to deter acts of police violence.
We demand that the Atlanta Citizen Review Board be dissolved and reconstituted with direct community representation. We demand the ACRB be given subpoena power, the authority to enforce its rulings and the power to issue legally-binding disciplinary actions against APD. To this point, APD and the police unions have repeatedly overruled or rejected the Board’s recommendations, leaving no additional redress for grievances.
We demand justice and independent investigation of Atlanta specific cases of police murder including, beginning with the release of all material evidence and surveillance footage in the Alexia Christian case.
The people demand the City divest critical funding from the APD and invest in social services such as affordable housing, equitable health and environmental resources, and equal access to quality public education, particularly in underserved communities. In addition, funding from miscellaneous fines and fees should be directed into funding pools for alternative solutions such as pre-arrest diversion, social welfare and anti-recidivism programs.
We demand redirecting of city funds to programs such as mental health response units, Pre-Arrest Diversion, such as the Pre-Booking Program proposed by SNaPCo or Seattle’s LEAD Project, and indigent care clinics.
We demand redirection of funds from the bond referendum, MARTA and beltline sales tax, and transportation sales tax into investment in black, marginalized communities.