Black Lives Matter Shuts Down Atlanta Council, as Council Approves Eminent Domain Talks for Peachtree-Pine
(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, October 03, 2016, Black Lives Matter Atlanta and a broad, youth-led coalition of progressive activists led a lengthy series of disruptions of the Full Council Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta.
It was the rowdiest, most boisterous direct action to take place in Council Chambers since the 2005 panhandling ordinance.
To his credit, Council President Ceasar Mitchell, a 2017 candidate for Mayor of Atlanta, allowed the protests to continue, whereas colleagues like Alex Wan (District 6) or Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) would have likely had everyone arrested after about five seconds.
At issue was Ordinance 16-0-1501 by Councilmembers Kwanza Hall (District 2) and Mr. Wan, to authorize the City to enter into negotiations with the owners of the property currently occupied by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and adjacent properties, for another police department.
Swept into an anti-Task Force hysteria, the Council approved the ordinance, in a vote of thirteen to one, with Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) being the only voice of reason.
After all, the City does not even know who to negotiate with. The question of fact regarding who has legal title to the property–whether Premium Funding Solutions or the Task Force–is currently being litigated in Fulton County Superior Court.
Moreover, as Atlanta Progressive News revealed following an open records request, a feasibility study that was mandated by the Council per previous legislation has not been done to even determine whether another police station is needed at that location.
Determining a need before spending taxpayer dollars to begin negotiations “does not seem logical to me,” Councilman Wan noted in all his sage wisdom, when questioned by Moore.
Both Moore and Wan are running for City Council President in 2017.
The City Council chamber was filled with people who oppose the ordinance.
The City also does not have a realistic plan to provide housing or resources for the homeless men, women, and children at the shelter, it they succeed in closing down the largest homeless shelter in the Southeast U.S., and Atlanta’s primary overflow shelter.
“Where are you going to put the poor folks that have been refused shelter in all the other facilities in town because of their mental health issue?” Marshall Rancifer, a formerly homeless man and Founder of Justice for All Coalition, said in public comments.
“I do outreach and we have people sleeping in the streets and in homeless camps all around Atlanta. People are sleeping in abandoned houses and those poor folks are not being counted. How are you going to throw people out of the largest shelter in town when you can’t even house the ones sleeping in the streets?” Rancifer inquired of the Council.
“They don’t care!” audience members frequently replied.
A new generation was in the room, who refuses to do things the “Atlanta Way.”
The divide was apparent between the mostly young, Black audience, and the mostly Black City Council Members.
“Kwanza Hall, how dare you?!”
“We had a little belief in you for putting forth the criminal justice reform, which is indefinitely tabled, and now you put forth this [ordinance] with much urgency. Which side are all of you on?” Mary Hooks, Co-Founder Black Lives Matter/Atlanta (BLM/Atlanta), asked.
People in attendance want the Mayor and City Council to stop trying to steal the homeless shelter; and stop spending taxpayer money on police, jails, stadiums, and gentrification of historic Black communities, and instead invest in social programs to help the Black community.
Dean Steed with Solutions Not Punishment testified that they recently released a report called, “The Most Dangerous Thing Out Here Is The Police.”
“The report states that one out of every twelve trans women in the City has been sexually assaulted by the police and many of those trans women are homeless,” Steed said.
“They want to close a shelter and kick people out in freezing cold and put a police precinct for anti- terrorism when there is already a precinct not too far away. Why do we need another police station when Black people and working class people are being killed every day by the goddamn police in Atlanta?” Sekou Kimathi with Street Groomers said.
Council President Mitchell scolded him for profane language. Others shouted back that putting homeless people out in the winter was what was profane.
The meeting was interrupted several times by outburst of “Shame, shame, shame!” hurled at Council Members.
Most members remained aloof and unmoved through over an hour of heartbreaking public testimony from homeless people and advocates.
When the protesters got quite loud, the police lined up in front of the City Council members to protect them from the citizens who they are suppose to represent but who suspect they represent big business and developers only.
The Hall-Wan ordinance was not the first attempt by the City and the business community to steal the property at 475 Peachtree and Pine.
This effort has been going on since 2009 when APN first reported that Central Atlanta Progress, the City of Atlanta, and others engaged in a multi-faceted conspiracy to sabotage the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
The conspirators sought to drive the Task Force out of business and obtain the property by injuring its reputation, cutting off public funds, telling lies about tuberculosis outbreaks, various lobbying efforts, and depriving it of private funds.
This draconian campaign’s ultimate goal has been to push poor and homeless, Black people, out of downtown Atlanta because they are just such an “eyesore.”
In July 2016, Mayor Kasim Reed told the City Club of Buckhead that he plans to use eminent domain to take control of the shelter and convert it into a state of the art police and fire facility that would help in the prevention of domestic terrorism, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“In this City, between 45 [thousand] and 65,000 are at risk of homelessness every year. Fifteen thousand different people came through our door last year and every one are registered to vote and we get people to vote, ” Beaty said.
A homeless Black man told the Council that he sacrificed everything, his car, and his apartment to get his son through college. Now, he said, he has lost his job and cannot afford his medicine and is ashamed to tell his son he is sleeping in a shelter.
Several in the audience yelled “Where is Kwanza? He needs to hear this.”
Councilman Hall missed over half the public hearing that exposed problems with his ordinance, and was later revealed to have been purchasing popcorn in the snack bar.
“If this Mayor was White, we would be screaming racism,” another speaker said.
Others said that if the City Council members were White it would be called racism to displace hundreds of Black men.
“You continue to support development that causes displacement of residents in this City. Where is your heart, where are your morals?” another speaker said.
Others called Atlanta the “City too Greedy to Care,” saying it has a history of criminalizing poor and homeless people, while presenting the illusion of a progressive city.
“We have a City Council who will not address, that out of over 100,000 quality of life arrests that the police made over a couple of years, over 90,000 were Black folks,” Attorney Tiffany Williams Roberts with BLM/Atlanta, said.
“At a time when we have historic wealth inequality… we are talking about closing the South’s largest homeless shelter. If we can afford to spend millions on a stadium, we can afford a fraction of that to fix up the Task Force. It is filled with combat veterans and people struggling with mental illness,” Tim Franzen with Housing Justice League said.
As participants were leaving the room, four or five police officers threw Kimathi, of Street Groomers, to the floor and arrested him. Witnesses said he did not hit or touch any of the police officers nor were other people around him arrested. He appeared to be randomly picked out of the crowd.
Atlanta Police Department reports that Kimathi was arrested for section 138-189 rules of conduct for City Hall “(a) shouting, screaming or yelling, where the person’s voice is plainly audible to anyone at a distance of 50 feet or more.”