"Hey Hey! Ho Ho! These fascists fucks have got to go!"
When Mayor Kasim Reed revoked his executive to allow occupants to stay in Troy Davis Park (formerly known as Woodruff Park) until November 7th on Monday, many remained skeptical that there would eviction efforts made any time soon. Their skepticism was ostensibly validated when, after a night of intense police presence alongside a small and fairly passive crowed, nothing happened.
That skepticism began to dissolve tonight around 9pm. The police presence grew enormously, the park was re-barricaded, and warnings of imminent eviction sounded through the P.A. system. When police stationed on horses came and blocked off the north side of Peachtree St., it became clear to everyone that this was more than another round of cautionary muscle-flexing: this was the night.
Once the gravity of the situation was realized, a group of thirty or so activists linked arms and formed a circle in the center of the park with the intention of practicing civil disobedience. A group of about fifty cops eventually approached the circle, and slowly but efficiently arrested activists one-by-one. Many cops were (predictably) haphazard and violent in their arrests/kidnaps: one activist had his ear repeatedly yanked until he resisted, and other activists were swung carelessly by their limbs (many had their legs carried by one cop and arms by another). In the middle of the ordeal a laughably ostentatious row of approximately forty riot cops assembled on the other side of the circle. It is also worth noting, if only as a curiosity, that GA Senator Vincent Fort was among those arrested.
Before the arrests occured, about two hundred activists and sympathizers (and some snarky white male detractors) lined the sidewalks of Peachtree St. chanting. Some activists began bringing tents, chairs, protest signs, etc. onto the street chanting "Occupy the Street!" In addition to answering the pragmatic concern of the police seizing occupants' property, this action also helped empower and galvanize the crowd. But this carnivalesque moment died a quick death, as the aforementioned swarm of cops soon entered the park to make arrests. During the arrests the usual arsenal of police-related chants was employed ("No justice / No peace / Fuck the police," "Who do you protect / Who do you serve," etc.) along with a new one that proved pleasingly contagious: "Cops are / Class traitors." Other chants were directed at those on the sidewalks, encouraging them to join us in the street. The strength in numbers argument contained in the chants proved to not be persusasive enough, and thus that strength was never attained.
At this point the police blocked off both sides of Peachstree St. and Auburn Ave., and a snake march onto Edgewood began that led to the Fulton County Jail near the Garnett MARTA station. It was rumored that the prisoner transport vans with our comrades were headed here. The march quickly lost momentum and numbers due to organizational deficiency and an increasingly threatening police presence. Police escorted us on foot during most of the march, a helicopter flew above us for its entirety, and an additional fifteen cops on motorcycles were there waiting for us at the jail. Everyone soon saw a prisoner transport van pull into the back of the building, but we were informed that entering onto the property was a felony offense. Looking around and seeing that there were only fifteen of us remaining, the futility of that action sunk in. Everyone broke into small groups and walked back to the park, which was now ominously bright and occupied by the guards of the 1%.
We should acknowledge that we lost this battle, but we must remember that it is but one of the first in a class war that is just now starting to see impressive numbers on the right side of the battlefield. Activists in Atlanta have a lot to learn from this experience. We need to discuss how to organize in situations of extreme police intervention like this, both in the context of affinity groups and large, heterogeneous crowds. We need to figure out how we can increase our numbers, especially amongst unions and marginalized communities. We need to talk about escalation. More immediately we need to talk about how and when we will re-occupy our park!
Whatever controversies may surround the site, http://occupyatlanta.org/ is a good way to stay updated on future OA-related marches and should inform anyone who's interested in donating to the bail fund of how to do so.