Planning to occupy Woodruff Park tomorrow night? Prepare to be arrested
The city will not allow protestors to remain in the park’
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- Joeff Davis/CL File??
- An Occupy Atlanta protester shouts “power to the people,” while being carried away by police after being arrested in October 2011 in Woodruff Park.?
??Protesters who attempt to occupy Woodruff Park tomorrow night won’t be allowed to stay past 11 p.m. And anyone who remains there longer could be arrested, city officials say.?
A group called the Atlanta Ferguson Solidarity Committee has scheduled an “indefinite mass occupation” of Woodruff Park starting at 7 p.m. They’ve encouraged supporters to bring tents, sleeping bags, and snacks in an effort that recalls the Occupy Atlanta protests that occurred three years ago.?
But the city has issued a clear warning ahead of time. In a lengthy statement, Mayor Kasim Reed tells CL that he continues to encourage peaceful protests throughout the city. He also says that protesters who are still in the park at 11 p.m., which is when the park usually closes, will be asked to leave.?
Here’s the mayor’s full statement about the scheduled Woodruff Park occupation:???? “I am proud of the City of Atlanta’s heritage as the ‘Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.’ Many of our most exceptional leaders —- visionaries such as Ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Joseph Lowery, all recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom —- fought for civil and human rights and played an essential role in changing our nation for the better through peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations.
? As I said last week, I understand the frustration and anger many of Atlanta’s residents are feeling. I am feeling this same frustration following the news that the officer who killed Eric Garner will not be subject to indictment. This sad news came too soon after Americans learned that the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., would not have to face a jury of his peers.
? Morever, Atlanta has a proud tradition of non-violent, peaceful protest and I am proud of the group that protested at Underground Atlanta in a peaceful manner. Unfortunately, a small group of individuals chose to become disruptive and break the law. Additionally, most of these individuals were not from the City of Atlanta and do not represent the vast majority of citizens who conducted themselves in a manner consistent with our city’s history of non-violent protest.
? In 2011, Occupy Atlanta protestors were allowed to stay in Woodruff Park for more than one week in a demonstration of our city’s commitment to upholding our citizen’s rights to free speech. When protestors began to violate safety ordinances and became a threatening presence to downtown residents and businesses, the park was closed and all protestors were removed from the park. The occupation put a burden on taxpayers, officers, as well as downtown visitors, residents, and business owners.
? I continue to urge all protestors to express their opinions peacefully, in a non-violent fashion that does not violate our city’s laws, but I want to send a clear message to those who choose to gather this Saturday at Woodruff Park: protestors will not be allowed to stay beyond 11 p.m. when the park closes. All protesters will be asked to leave at this time. The city will not allow protestors to remain in the park and asks all people to cooperate for the safety of themselves and others.
? And finally, I want us all to remember the wishes of both Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s families: protest, but protest peacefully and without breaking the law.”?
At 11 p.m., Atlanta Police will order protesters to leave the park. Following the warning, APD spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy tells CL that officers will be instructed to arrest anyone who refuses to follow their orders. ?
“Our policy will be to enforce the City Ordinance against Camping/Tents in the park as well as the Hours for the Parks,” Espy says.?
EDITOR’S NOTE: To view our complete coverage on local protests and responses to police brutality, visit the #ShutitdownATL page.