Atlanta: Report-Back from Actions Against Police and Prisons
at 8, we're walking down piedmont, following multiple groups of black-clad people on the sidewalk in front of us. we don't recognize any of them and we're laughing at the appearance of new friends. signs go up on the street poles: march against police violence, 8pm. arrows show the way.
a few minutes before the march, we were walking out of a medical hospital with as many surgical masks as we could carry.
three weeks before, we're on MARTA heading south. one of us stands up in the middle of the train car and announces the upcoming march against multiple police involved shootings and acts of violence. we're situated near the opening doors of the car and people are reaching for fliers on the way out, smiling.
rather than attempting to convince people that cops are bad, we are calling out to those who already know.
when we get to the west end mall, the response is similar. conversations begin with "do you hate the police?" folks do a double take. of course they do. telling us they'll "bring the whole family!", they ask for stacks of fliers to pass out to their friends. posters for the march go up in all the shop windows. we're excited at finding new friends--no more "political work," no more emulating the bible thumpers on the university campus.
the Facebook page says 80 people are attending. a strange promotional video circulates online. a week before the march a large banner is dropped and flyers are thrown from above a barnes & noble in a busy shopping center.
none of the outreach worked. though a couple new (hidden) faces were present at the march, we recognized no one from MARTA or the west end. furthermore, a notable handful of folks we're used to seeing in the streets chose not to show up.
a group of ~fifty gather at the entrance of the park. almost all are dressed in black. some wear orange cop watch shirts, video cameras in hand. boom boxes sit in the grass alongside banners that read cops pigs murderers, no justice/no peace/no police, and dance dance insurrection. an undercover asked if he was the only one who'd bolt if the cops showed up and if we heard the march on atlantaanarchists.org--that's not a real website. we pass out surgical masks and leaflets with a short statement and a map of the surrounding area. referencing the maps and looking for one-ways, we try to determine the best route for the march. word goes out that there are cops assembling south of where we are with dozens of squad cars, motorcycles, a mobile command center, and a swat team.
people continue to walk up as a speak out begins over a megaphone. a few share experiences of being beaten by police and their time in prison. someone reads the statement on the leaflet and someone else suggests we head out. we grab the banners and the boom boxes start up. still fairly uncertain of where exactly the fifty of us are going, we begin to march down 14th. toward the rich people, anyway.
a large banner leads the march. we're whooping, howling, chanting all cops are bastards/A C A B! the boom boxes blare anti-police rap and aggro dub-step, and some of us are dancing. most of us are in the street, though some people and two cop watch teams are on the sidewalk. the first few cars behind us speed past in the wrong lane. within a block, two cars are flashing blue strobe lights for our dance party. a dispersal order is blared over the speakers of one of the cars, barely thirty seconds into the march.
when we get to the intersection of 14th and peachtree, we begin to chant our passion for freedom is stronger than your prisons! people who can afford to stay in bourgie hotels in midtown are out by the pool, watching as we dance and block traffic. more blue lights flash and more of us begin to dance. anxiety, excitement, rage, whatever--it's hot out. fuck the heat! we turn left, south, down peach tree. people watch, bewildered, out the windows of their luxury cars. some of them pump fists. the number of cops following us swells, and we hear the buzz of the police chopper.
halfway down the block, people decide the cops are too close behind us and drag trashcans in front of the cars. everyone cheers. they stop to move the blockades and we move forward, dancing harder.
one of the police cars pulls around the side of the march and we're startled. a large swarm of squad cars and motorcycle cops move to head off the march from the south. we don't manage to tighten up and a group of cops charges, grabbing the two holding the front banner. a few surge forward and try and protect the banner holders, but the rest of the march takes off in a sprint. four are slammed to the ground and thrown into cop cars. even if a de-arrest had occurred, there was no group of people to throw de-arrestees into. during the commotion, someone smashes the front windows out of the bank of america.
four down after a ten minute march. the rest of us escape, scrambling up hills or darting into restaurants with food more expensive than any of us could afford. the police tell everyone this is an elaborate drill for the SWAT team. we all get out of there one way or another and head home to begin bailing our friends out. after two sleepless days, everyone's out. they were charged with pedestrian in a roadway, obstruction of an officer, and wearing masks in public. one of the arrestees told us the police said they took a hands-off approach during occupy and they're not making that mistake again.
three days later, on monday evening, we assemble at the previously occupied park for a noise demo in solidarity with hunger striking prisoners. thirty of us take the streets on the way to the city jail, headed up by a huge banner that reads end jail. the drums and pots are loud and folks are clapping as we pass, some yelling fuck the police! back to us. we make noise on the sidewalk by the jail, getting louder as we hear our chants echoing from inside, accompanied by the sound of prisoners beating on their windows. we cross the street to wave to the prisoners on the other side of the building. four cops, including a white-shirted captain, walk toward us and we decide to head out. we keep to the sidewalks and they follow too closely on foot. the captain, who we recognize from the occupation, is able to get in between some of us. she stops short in front of someone who's walking backward as they film the other three pigs. "you just ran into me! one more time and you're going to jail."
they follow us all the way back to the park. we're careful to keep on the sidewalk, not ready (emotionally or financially) to face more arrests so soon. we stop in the park, in view of a large mass of cops with zip ties on the other side. four pigs from the jail walk up to give us a talking-to. when they approach we're a stone wall of intentional and awkward silence as the captain makes clear that if we march in the street, we will be arrested.
this weekend confirmed two things for us. abandoned by police during occupy, the streets are once again contested territory in atlanta. street marches will face immediate and brutal repression. we are nervous and regrouping, adjusting to the new police programs which are more intense, but at least more honest. they will surveil us, beat us, and arrest us. all future actions must take this into account--we have to be ready. the police will attack and we can only respond.
may our response be exhilarating. may resistance spread further and deeper forever and ever. to the barricades!