Atlanta: a Report-Back from October 22nd March
At 4pm, on October 22nd, roughly 50 people congregated in Woodruff Park as a part of the annual day against “police brutality and the criminalization of a generation.” The gathering was diverse and there were a handful of faces covered in scarves and masks throughout the crowd.
For about an hour, speakers from the October 22nd Coalition gave speeches while others played drums or posed for pictures in front of the huge “Fuck the Police” banner. Around 5pm, the crowd began marching toward the Atlanta City Detention Center. Although the organizers initially attempted to keep the crowd on the sidewalk, several hooded ones, drummers and a few folks holding a red flag walked in the street. The rest of the crowd joined and flooded all four lanes of traffic just as the event organizers irrelevantly gave their approval.
The chanting, banner, and drums excited many onlookers who rushed the street with both middle fingers in the air screaming “fuck the police!”
When the crowd - which had grown to over 60 - reached the Atlanta City Detention Center, dozens flooded up onto the plaza and began banging and slapping the glass front doors. The October 22nd Coalition organizers ushered the mob off of the platform so that they could give speeches, forcing the rest of the crowd onto the sidewalk below them. Some people who spoke had family members killed by police. The majority of the speeches came from the event organizers themselves. As the event went on, a few people began experimenting with masks and asked the hooded ones how best to use their shirts for this purpose. After about an hour and half of talking, the crowd had thinned out.
Following the final speeches, the crowd began marching back and immediately took the streets again. Someone from the crowd drew a circle-A and wrote “ACAB” on the channel 2 action news van while others began to chant to the sound of the drums. After a few blocks, people holding the red flag snaked the march up the side of the Five Points MARTA station.
At the plaza atop the Five Points station, someone without a mask on tipped over a police barricade. I was expecting to hear boo-ing. Instead, the entire crowd erupted in applause and cheers of approval. Someone else who had joined the march from off of the sidewalk picked up a steel police barricade and flipped it over to more clapping and excitement. Hastily, one of the event organizers approached the youth and asked him to stop. Immediately, some masked folks approached the kid and let him know that what he did was awesome and they exchanged contact information.
Another person in the crowd knocked over a sign out front of a local restaurant in front of the owner. The business owner charged into the crowd and grabbed the nearest person in a mask and demanded that they pick up the sign. They did not comply, but nobody helped to fend off the angry store owner. Perhaps the unruly crowd dynamics were more diffuse because there was no black bloc, which is something we also witnessed this past spring. This is not an excuse to forego affinity group organizing, without which we are needlessly vulnerable.
The march snaked its way back to Woodruff Park where people excitedly discussed the march and exchanged contact info.
Managers of revolt are everywhere-- in liberal non-profit circles as well as in the fringe “revolutionary” milieus we are associated with. Inject yourself into over-determined spaces to open up room for free expression.
It is perfectly acceptable to hate society for all of the things it could never be, but it is inside of the vast social terrain that the would-be rebels and revolutionaries are hiding, waiting. Anarchists cannot be Puritanical. When we see these people, we should try to meet them. Wherever social tensions are revealing themselves, we should push them to their limits. When we do this well, we tend to have influence far beyond our numbers.