tagged w/ Occupy Atlanta
It was an unusual start to a meeting, a behind the scenes, inside look at the operation behind Occupy Atlanta and their "media coordination." I was waiting to meet with Tim Franzen, the face of Atlanta's Chapter. The hallways were small, and there were written poster board signs indicating various committee rooms (Logistics Committee, Media, etc) and the floor they Occupied looked like it was in the midst of renovations.
Before we could start, the Almighty Movement of God Church wanted to address the Media group and ask Occupy to join them in a March next Tuesday. This march was to help people claim back their homes and businesses - for which had been foreclosed in the economic crisis. They would have Civil Rights leaders, Media outlets and the attention of the city, they said, They wanted Occupy Protesters to join them at the court house and stand against the banks and government, in hopes of repossessing the properties.
But what came of the meeting was more than just an announcement for another Protest. The discussion unfolded into the occurrences of Tuesday night when 52 protesters from Occupy Atlanta were arrested. Since then, Mayor Reid has insisted one of the main reasons for the arrest was a man who entered the park that day with an assault rifle slung on his back. I remember seeing him and how nervous the Tactical Peace team was with the man's presence. Others at the camp bantered the man's rights to carry it and their concern for safety.
According to Franzen and others in the room, Occupiers repeatedly attempted to inform the police that surrounded the park, outside of the metal barricades, asking them remove the man or investigate him. But Franzen said, Officers never responded to the complaints. Another young man in the room said he had talked to the gentleman and had ever learned how the gun was obtained.
The Clergy present at the meeting felt that it needed to be brought to media and the public's attention that possibly, the Mayor allowed the man to remain in the park or knew of his presence, which would show his lack of interest in protecting the people of Occupy and Civil Rights icon, Andrew Young who spoke at the park that day. The Clergy expressed concern over allowing the man with the rifle to be within yards of Young.
Ironically enough, no one ever learned the name of the man who showed up, and it is not evident whether he was ever detained or questioned.
Since Tuesday, Occupy Atlanta has regrouped and is planning further demonstrations throughout the city. Some are camping in the park again, while others are camping near the King Memorial and headquarters is being moved down the street. Their drive to move forward is impeccable, and they stand by the statement that they were wrongfully taken into custody during a peaceful protest. Most video that has popped up on the web shows protesters being dragged away silently during the raid and whether or not the public will hear their message about the man with assault rifle is yet to be determined.
(tbc)It was an unusual start to a meeting, a behind the scenes, inside look at the... more
October 15-16, 2011
The second weekend of Occupy Atlanta proved to be a much different experience than when it began. Emotional, personal, and what started as an outcry for Economic justice seemed to have morphed into a protest, a movement against Social Injustices. Such is the atmosphere in the South, how fitting Atlanta has turned inward and demanding more from their own community.
The introduction of changing the name of the park from Woodruff Park to "Troy Davis Park," has certainly resonated with many of the protesters as racial injustice, despite that many of them do not know just how convoluted the case of Troy Davis really was. While some, justly, protested the Death Penalty, there are still others who are concerned with what they call an unfair and racist trial for man convicted of ultimately, two murders. But neither here nor there, the passion over this man's life and death was evident among everyone who participated.
On the day Washington D.C. was dedicating the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, The Almighty Movement of God church joined Occupy Atlanta. They set up a tent for church services and ministry. They held a press conference and attracted local news entities in order to show their support for the protesters. They led a March down to the MLK Memorial singing "We Shall Overcome," and preached the victory of the people in the Name of Jesus. During the speeches at the Memorial, one man stood in the middle circle - and what he said, I will not forget, he stated that he realized not everyone, including himself, was a person of faith, but that there was, "something holy about this place, and it makes me nervous." He went on to talk about the failure of leadership in the US - and King's message about the "urgency of now," and rallied the protesters around the desperateness need for change. Another man called out and shouted, "we are the solution," and urged the younger people to change their world. A young 20 year old said he didn't know much but knew that he wanted to make a better future- eliminating the obstacles of not finding a job, being able to live a life of freedom. Still another man, who was very emotional, admitted he was new to the movement but he didn't understand why the community wasn't working to help prostitutes and put an end to street violence. From eliminating racial tensions to increasing community care and participation - the outcries were not really about economics and taxes and corrupt capitalism. It was about the people. When they left the memorial, they continued to sing "We Shall Overcome," and chant.
Later, when asked by a local media station, if they were now aligning themselves with the Almighty Movement of God Church and becoming a religious movement, their answer was, simply, was that they were a Social movement that was not aligning themselves with anyone, but accepting the help of everyone who offered to step in.
Occupy Atlanta has made it evident they do not trust police, authority figures of any kind and are weary of even the kindest Officials - who ironically offered a protective police escort to and from the King Memorial Site. In fact, Sunday night, an announcement was read by a member of their Media Committee - stating that a young 19-year-old had been shot in the back by a Marta Police Officer while running away from a crime scene with his hands in the air-- following a football game. In response; the encampment held an immediate vigil, lighting candles and solemnly commemorating the boy's life. It was as if they had become more determined to fight. Still the Atlanta Police have not made a single arrest at the park. Mayor Reed has extended the deadline more than once to allow the protesters to stay at the park as long as they are co-operative with park cleaning and noise levels. With the social turn of debate it seems the Mayor has extended sympathies to the protesters and a certain report has formed between Occupy participants and City Officials.
But there was something, even more, that stuck out at the Occupy camp this weekend - They had wall, a wooden fence - and written on it were stories of Occupiers, citizens who are in protest of the system. And while some of them described losing jobs or not getting loans from the bank, many many more told stories of broken homes, addict parents, loss of security, homelessness, anger because they couldn't get an education, jealousy, and one even read, "So What's The Point Anymore?" My first thought was, this is Wailing of Wall of Occupy, the desperation of my generation and the one following. As I peered through the lens of a camera, eyes stinging in wonder and sadness, all I read were people who were broken. Sometime later, protesters dressed as zombies, fitting for those who feel dead in the world, spilled fake blood on the wall - and while some were quick to defend that it was ruining artwork, other saw it as a testament to what the words on the Wall read. I did.
Of all the desperation that proved itself evident over the course the weekend, one thing brought a smile - how many of homeless were actually being taken care of, with jobs in the camp, food, responsibilities and given hope that they were worth enough to be trusted enough to accomplish something and contribute to a society, to a community.
Occupy Atlanta is beginning to show itself less as an Economic protest against the banks and governmental injustice. Rather it is showing the faces of social and personal needs for a freedom many of them don't have.
Their continued complaints against political systems are only the mask of far greater issue. As the advocates and protesters continue, one thing is for certain, they are persistent in creating a changed community. The only obstacle it seems is they have yet to define what it looks like when "their work is done." The question still poses, what does the current system and government need to do to show the Occupy movement that they've been heard?
Time will tell.
Photography: Ashley Gallagher
FB: Untamed Focus Media or untamedfocus.comOctober 15-16, 2011
The second weekend of Occupy Atlanta proved to be a much... more
Observation of the Masses
"MIC check!" ("MIC check!")
The crowd responded with some sort of wild enthusiasm, like that of an allegiance to a great leader, for which none seemed to emerge. It was surreal. But that's the price one pays for not having a proper sound system.
The call and response, they called it the "People's Mic" and they told me was a way of making sure everyone in the group heard the message. Then again, I kept wondering why they just didn't use the bull horn a little more. By the second night, they had progressed and the Assembly Meeting etiquette was in better use. Not everyone has the ability to form short phrases for the rest to follow along. Still the system required - follow one, follow all.
The first day of the first weekend with Occupy Atlanta was coming a close. I had spent the afternoon and the better part of the evening wandering the park, looking to shoot photos and more importantly, seeing just how many of them I could get to come on camera and tell me about why they were living out of tents in the middle of the city.
A warm Saturday afternoon grazed the skin and a slight breeze reminded me it was fall, as such; there were some who told me it was the "American Fall," a response the "Arab Spring." I was aghast at the comparison. The Arab world - Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria -- all came together against oppressive regimes, not whimsical financially ignorant governments who ran a campaign on hope or war on terrorism. The people's right to protest has never been questioned, nor anyone shot and killed. Perhaps their rhetoric was only meant to draw attention to the masses. Their inspiration to gather in a square, in the city streets and chant - it was coming from peoples across the globe who were brave enough under governments of totalitarian rule. And if they could do it there, why was this generation -- here-- not going out and practicing their very First Amendment Right? I had hoped it was that and not the former.
The Atlanta protesters, following suit with the rest of the country, fell into a movement that started in New York- on Wall Street no less, and their grievances began with the banks. Of course for some, it was the Federal Reserve, others objected to Capitalism itself. The dissatisfied group even went so far as to protest the Death Penalty and the Founder of Coca Cola in the name of anti-racism.
Their first night out, Civil Rights Activist and Representative John Lewis attempted to address the crowd, even praise them. But after a matter of debate - in form of the People's Mic, and blocks made against a government official addressing them at all; they turned him down. As it were, there has been more outcry against their decision-- than for it - particularly because he was a Civil Rights hero and is esteemed high in this city. Lewis later said he wasn't offended, but then again, he hasn't responded to any other invitation to return. Ironically, a man who understands protesting better than anyone, was unable to offer any alliance. In recent days, even Andrew Young has come out and stated there needs to be leadership among the protesters and that it's an emotional outcry rather than a movement.
The propaganda being used to help rally protesters seems to have questions of its own. While it may be well intended, it seemed to lack a clear message on how to deal with outsiders or critics or even Police officials. In fact, one of the brochures seemed very distrusting and reiterated lines that read, " Police violence isn't meant to provoke us, it's mean to hurt and scare us, " another line read, " "Police can't be trusted. They may be ordinary workers, but their job is to protect the interests of the ruling class. As long as they remain employed as police, we can't count on them." and even lines that had no follow up explanation or 'how to' read, "the United States was founded on the extermination of indigenous peoples...for counter occupation to be meaningful, ... it should embrace the history of resistance extending from indigenous self defense and slave revolts."
Ironically, there have been no reports of arrests or even stiff threats by any police officers in the area. In fact, most have been very kind, admittedly by many protesters and have only asked them to care for public property in exchange for making the park a camp ground. Even after police forces showed up and rumors that the Mayor would come down himself this past week, there were no riots and the tensions dissipated. Now, sources say, the Mayor plans to evict the protesters Monday evening - the October 17th. And the group's response? While many are determined to stand their ground and stay, Assembly Meetings have proposed inviting the Mayor to stay a night with them, which he told the AJC he was, "praying about it."
The Occupy protests seem to be stumbling forward and trying to govern by the masses. However, there doesn't seem to be acknowledgement that the masses needs representation. While the group works positively to create committees and sub-groups to deal with various problems and concerns, their organization and system of vote could continue to improve. Even major networks have poked at their mannerisms. Their demands are forming and there are groups that know what they exactly what they want, others may not be so sure. It seems divided between older and younger.
There is much to learn from the 60s movement(s) - from the Women's Rights activists to the Civil Rights activists to the Anti-War Activists. Even the Hippies and their psychedelics and music provided revolutionary ideas, that changed the way society was run. And certainly this group might find inspiration from that very era.
I will say this - I find it profound that there are this many people who coming out of the wood work, young, old and recognizing there are changes that need be made. No matter what side of the political line you're on, and even if you're not on one at all, there is always a need for people to be willing to step outside what they think is safe and comfortable to make change happen. It's been 4 decades since the country has exploded with such fervor. While different political lines want to blame each other and point fingers - the people have decided they're done with it, and whether it's a bunch of Hipsters, Gen X-ers or Tea-Partiers: something is happening and it's finally breaking through the surface.
Music: Sister Speak "Honestly"
Photo Journalist: Ashley GallagherObservation of the Masses
"MIC check!" ("MIC check!")
Occupy Atlanta Media Committee
Participants in Occupy Atlanta met with Chief Turner and his staff today and were warned that the police intended to enforce the city ordinances against camping and against being in the park after 11 pm (EST).
Here in the "city too busy to hate," the city where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, attended college, and preached, we come to speak our own dreams.
We believe that the American political process is so corrupted by the influx of lobbyists, "free speech" corporate cash, and politicians beholden to both that it has failed us completely.
Our only option left is to occupy public spaces in order to assert our right to freely assemble and to redress our grievances, rights guaranteed to us by the First Amendment. Exerting that right has ironically become an act of civil disobedience, a fact which points out exactly what the problem really is. We owe no obedience to laws which abridge our Constitutional rights.
We need as many people to come down to Woodruff Park ASAP!
Update: Police is on its way right now. (11:24pm)
Update: A bomb squad and police bus have been set up. (11:31)Occupy Atlanta Media Committee
Participants in Occupy Atlanta met with Chief Turner... more