In order to address the police brutality Edgewood is facing, we gotta stick on our historical goggles and use common sense. The east Atlanta neighborhood began as a working class community, and any of the remaining early-20th century architecture will show that simple bungalow style housing used to be home to Atlanta’s flourishing working class. However, through the years, white-flight and gentrification has taken a heavy toll on the area and people who call it home.
In 2004, a Florida based land developer, The Sembler Company, and the national construction firm TD Farrel began converting the land on Moreland Ave., that had formerly been owned by Atlanta Gas Light, into the “Edgewood Retail District,” or as many locals call it “Gentrification Station.” The nickname is an outright statement of the purposes of the district. Since then, inflated property values, new condominium housing, and school redistricting have been major forces at play by the city government and their business partners’ attempts at increasing the value of land for a stronger return on private real estate investments and tourism, the same way the BeltLine has been used in the adjacent poor neighborhoods of Reynoldstown and Old Forth Ward.
The City of Atlanta has property values to look after, and plain and simple: poor folks are bad for high property values. The City’s new plans to continue transforming Edgewood into a complex eerily similar to Atlantic Station is unveiled among increased reports of police harassment and violence from some of the remaining black and poor populations in the area. The city’s agenda is to push out the remaining black and poor residents of Edgewood in any and every way; economically, through rising taxes and rent; psychologically, through drastic changes in landscape and housing architecture; racially, in promoting white business, while ignoring black business; and physically, with the Atlanta Police Department’s goons.
In 2011, Atlanta was home to two murders committed by police. These murders heightened the distinctions between friend and foe for many poor residents who still remain in the city and who have been hip to the gentrification scheme since the Olympics bid. This year, in Edgewood, police harassment has been on an increase and on April 9th, Edgewood residents decided to let a little steam off.
April 8th saw a neighborhood kick-ball match across Hardee St. from Edgewood Courts, when the APD began arresting a man on charges currently unknown. When the crowd began issuing protest, police responded with violence. Accounts of pepper-spray, beatings, and death threats were heard and published by the neighborhood CopWatch.
Weeks earlier, a crowd of children were approached by police and asked to disperse. When the children asserted their right to assemble and refused to disperse, police responded with pepper spray and displayed a shotgun with threats of violence and death.
On the afternoon of April 9th, residents of Edgewood Courts and a few neighboring residents gathered to march through the neighborhood in support of victims of police brutality, and to state their sentiments and knowledge of the police’s role in applying violent pressure on poor and black people. Squad cars were placed nearly every block, and each one was surrounded and chased off by the crowd. A display of solidarity in in-town neighborhoods has only recently been seen surrounding eviction struggles, one such struggle in Edgewood was just won with the same community support, declaring Edgewood and “eviction free zone.”
Massive sequester cuts, rising rent and property taxes, with little to no increase in wages leaves poor people suffocated. The addition of police brutality has pushed the poor into a corner and the solution that has naturally flowered is solidarity. Could such community solidarity be the key to a “police free zone”? or even a “crime free zone”? Perhaps time will tell, but if April’s events can be any sort of compass, it appears that new solutions to old problems are on the horizon for Edgewood.
Heat Index is a group of anarchists in Atlanta–we’re all involved in various projects around town, including the IWW, the Atlanta Solidarity Network, anti-fascist organizing, anti-gentrification, and others. With this blog we hope to present our thoughts and analysis on various issues in Atlanta and beyond through an anarchist lens–and in so doing clarify and develop our positions and strategies, to make our struggles more effective. We welcome discussion and hope that this blog can play even the smallest of parts in helping to create an atmosphere of collaborative critical evaluation within the Atlanta anarchist milieu.