Protesters pack city streets to rally against police brutality, racism

It’s not about comparing tragedies. It’s about doing something.’

More than 1,000 people packed Downtown and Midtown streets Thursday evening, calling for reforms and blocking traffic during a three-mile march slamming police injustice.

In the wake of the recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by police, grassroots advocates from Black Lives Matter and other organizations rallied people to march from the Five Points MARTA station to Piedmont Park in an act of solidarity against racial profiling and police violence. Protesters temporarily blocked I-75 near North Avenue. No arrests were made.

Other cities across the country held their own marches and vigils. A march in Dallas ended when police say snipers opened fire on officers, killing five. One of the suspects was killed by police.

Organizers Avery Jackson and Taiza Troutman, two Atlanta students who are part of advocacy group Atlanta Black Students United, told Creative Loafing they planned the event on Wednesday night, just hours before Atlanta police found a black male hanged in Piedmont Park. APD said the scene was “consistent with a suicide” but have turned the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

People using social media yesterday expressed doubt, with some people calling the death a homicide. Some activists cried foul on APD’s prompt conclusion for the cause of death.

“You can’t find a body hanging from a tree and immediately deem it suicide,” Troutman said.

?? They also raised questions about other investigations relating to local police-involved killings.

“We are not out here absent of a desire to see safety and dignity for all of us,” said Mary Hooks of BLM Atlanta and Southerners on New Ground. “The city of Atlanta has blood on its hands. We’re still asking for the records and video of Alexia Christian, who was murdered by police.”

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Organizer Seyoum Bey claimed these stories of police misconduct are not isolated incidents. “It happened in Baton Rouge. It happened in Chicago. It happened in Cleveland. It happened in Baltimore,” he said.

Around 9 p.m., after the crowd had filed into Piedmont Park through the Charles Allen entrance, near the area where the black male was found hanging, Bri Cole, a cousin of Alton Sterling, told supporters and news crews that they cannot turn a blind eye to such injustice.

“A lot of people will go home and forget about this, like they’ve done to Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin,” she said. “It’s not about comparing tragedies. It’s about doing something.”
?? Jackson called the protest a “traveling healing space.” “It’s an affirmation space for black people in a country that doesn’t affirm black people,” he said. “We’re going to disrupt people while we heal; that just happens. We’re taking our healing space into a place that’s not just black people.”

And the mammoth crowd, which stretched up to three city blocks at times, drew supporters of all colors to sing along to chants such as “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”

“We have nothing to lose but our chains,” Jackson sang to followers just before the march kicked off. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.”

Some supporters were assigned the role of “blocker,” meaning they ran ahead of the pack to stop cars, clearing the way for the protesters. Scout Kit Maureen, a Canadian immigrant who said an arrest could prompt her deportation, led one of the four teams of blockers and frequently stood in front of honking motorists. “I’m not scared of cops because I have white privilege on my side, which is disgusting,” she said. “But, unfortunately, it’s the truth.”

Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who arrived at the park at the tail end of the march, told CL that these issues of police misconduct are really not a political matter, as the laws already exist to prevent brutality and racism.
?? “You can have a contract with people who don’t honor it,” he said. “It’s not about the contract. What does the damn Constitution say? It’s human beings who are in control. You need human beings whose hearts are right.”

Hall said he supports the Atlanta officers who are “doing their jobs,” but he recognizes that some people aren’t treated fairly by the justice system, whether that’s in a courtroom or on the street. “If you’re a person of color, your life has been treated as less than valuable, but really all lives truly matter.”

Hall said he’ll be working on some sort of website next week to collect ideas about how to combat bigotry and police brutality. “Let’s make a list of what we can do to curb racial profiling, have everyone vote on the most important things to act on.”


a class=”wiki external” target=”_blank” href=”” rel=”external”>Another march is planned for tonight starting from the National Center for Civil and Human Rights at 6 p.m.