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#ShutItDownATL protestors standoff with police after non-indictment in Eric Garner's death

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  • Rodney Carmichael??
  • Atlanta organizer Queen K encourages a fellow protestor while addressing the human barricade on Sprint Street with a megaphone?

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It turned into a game of cat and mouse between protestors and police Wednesday night, as people took to the streets to express their unity and outrage over yet another failure to indict a policeman in the death of an unarmed black man. ?

In solidarity with similar protests nationwide over a New York grand jury's findings in the case of Eric Garner, the #ShutItDownATL coalition used social media to quickly organize a rally and march that started at 9 p.m. at the North Ave. MARTA station and climaxed with the formation of a unity circle on Spring Street near the North Ave. intersection that obstructed the entrance ramps to the Downtown Connector. ?

While protestors formed a human blockade of interlocked arms — shouting such chants as "Who shuts shit down? We shut shit down!" — organizer Aurielle Lucier announced that eight highway ramps along I-75/85 had been shut down as a result, based on reports she was receiving. ???? Image ? ?

  • Rodney Carmichael??
  • Atlanta Police restrained themselves while warning protestors who blocked the Spring St. entrance to the Connector for approximately half an hour.?

??It was an emotional demonstration that organizers were intent on keeping peaceful as they displayed their power. Which meant alternating between pushing their agenda of civil disobedience and placating to police demands, lying down in the middle of the street and marching orderly on sidewalks. ?

Getting arrested, however, was not the goal. They started the rally by calling arrests casualties to the system. And while they wanted to provide a forum for people to express their "righteous rage," as Lucier dubbed it, they also wanted to keep away the kind of agitators that derailed their mission following last week's non-indictment verdict of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.?

"There were no casualties tonight," an organizer who identified herself only as Queen K told the crowd at the end of the protest back at the North Ave. station, where she'd earlier pointed out two hangers-on she alleged to be trouble starters. After she directed the crowd's attention to the couple in question, the two of them quietly left.?

Still, for a vocal few in attendance, the marching, chanting, crying and staged die-in was not enough to combat the latest perceived miscarriage of justice. ?

"We need to bring more aggression," said one petite protestor who bounced among the crowd like a lit fuse. She identified herself only as Tiffany.????

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  • Rodney Carmichael??
  • With arms interlocked, a unity circle of protestors took over Spring St., causing the closing of several highway exits on Wednesday night.?

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"Y'all police suck," she said, taunting Atlanta police officers one moment and fellow protestors the next as they corralled on sidewalks in front of Emory Midtown Hospital in another momentary standoff. "Man, what type of protest is this? Y'all scared of the police?!"?

After marching in a loud but orderly fashion down the sidewalk on Peachtree Street, protestors were cornered again by police on Third St. When a policeman driving an SUV demanded them to clear the street over his loudspeaker, the crowd of approximately 300 returned to sidewalks and marched on, leaving only two behind: Tiffany and Lucier. ?

In a 10-minute aside, the organizer took time to talk one-on-one with the frustrated first-timer about the difference between strategic protesting and mindless rioting.???? Image ? ?

  • Rodney Carmichael??
  • Protestors sit in solidarity with Atlanta police in the foreground?

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"If you're scared," Tiffany responded, "then why the hell are you even doing the protest?" ?

Her rage reflected the level of exasperation reached with a judicial system that seems to be operating blindly in all the wrong ways. She didn't realize, however, that she was talking to someone who'd just been arrested four nights earlier during an Atlantic Station die-in.?

"Sis, I ain't scared. That's one thing I'm not," Lucier countered. "I'm telling people to play smart and play for the endgame, because if we all get locked up tonight there's going to be nobody out here tomorrow fighting."???? Image ? ?

  • Rodney Carmichael??
  • Organizers directed the protest circle from the inside while local media documented the scene.?

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Led by a coalition of young overwhelmingly female organizers, #ShutItDownATL has quickly morphed from a group of impassioned, enraged protestors to a band of grassroots organizations (#ItsBiggerThanYou, Southerners on New Ground, Gen Y Project, etc.) with tactical goals.?

They started and ended last night's demonstration by emphasizing the same list of demands Lucier presented in front of Attorney General Eric Holder during his visit to Atlanta's Ebenezer Church this week. They also focused on the importance of ending genocide, directing their own narrative outside of media coverage, and continuing to establish a broad-based, diverse coalition across lines of race, sexual orientation and the like.?

Participants joining the core included Georgia Tech students, Occupy sympathizers, even an older man, who appeared to be a vagrant, but made his way to the forefront as the night concluded.?

"We shut down the highway. That's what you did tonight," said Queen K at the rally's conclusion with news cameras watching her. "This is what power in numbers looks like.???? Image ? ?

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EDITOR'S NOTE: To view our complete coverage on local protests and responses to police brutality, visit the #ShutitdownATL page.
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