You can see full video of the stuff I describe here, both the march and the initial attempt to stop the cops. The person filming talks to me at about 50:30, as I’m trying to get between the Black protestors and the armed cops.
I arrived at the Centennial Park protest about 4:30 on Tuesday. There was already a crowd of a couple hundred at Centennial and Marietta, massed up against the line of cops blocking Centennial southbound. National Guard was stationed around the park itself, on the other side of the fence, and they looked to be using the interior of the park as a hangout/rest area. They also had a couple guys on top of the nearby parking deck, keeping lookout.
The protestors were taking care of folks left and right–it was really beautiful to see. At every corner they had stations with free water and snacks, and they encouraged us all to grab whatever we needed. There was a curb hospital with a table and a sign that listed all the stuff they had, and kids staffing it were in medic vests. Their sign listed how to donate to them, so I tossed them $20 from my phone and immediately got a message back saying thanks and to stay safe. There was also a girl circulating through the crowd with a trash bag to collect trash from people.
At about 5:20pm, organizers encouraged us all to start marching west on Marietta. We ended up marching for about 2 hours (wish I’d grabbed sunscreen lol)–basically up to Midtown and then back down again. There were some cops blocking traffic on cross streets, but by some I mean like 2. You can see a lot of the scenes from the march in my Twitter thread: we had a protest bus accompanying us, guys on motorcycles revving their engines in time with the chants, two guys on horses even! The cars we passed honked in encouragement and people went out on their patios in the highrises to bang pots and pans and cheer us on.
This was all incredibly normal protest stuff. I felt a weird sense of deja vu, even, marching down Peachtree, because it’s the same route we used to ride when we did Critical Mass protests back in 2005/2006.
Anyway, we made it all the way back to downtown without incident, but as soon as we got to Marietta and Forsyth, things went bad.
A crowd of people was gathered around two cop cars–not Atlanta PD but I guess Homeland Security. They were arguing with DHS officers, including one named Willis and another named Morales. Right before I’d arrived, DHS had snatched a kid who was supposedly running. They said he’d stolen a phone, but then they also said that they didn’t know if he’d committed a crime and they wouldn’t confirm or deny that he actually had the phone on him. He was in the back of the second car. DHS let someone in the crowd give him a card for a lawyer, and they gave us his name.
The people around me were asking DHS to just find out if he had actually stolen the phone. We all said we’d wait until DHS did this. They repeatedly told us that we were the ones preventing them from letting him go, that we were crowding them and preventing them from questioning him. Officer Willis said if we backed up 6 feet, they could ascertain the situation and maybe let him go. (Pause for a second to ask why the fuck they didn’t do that before tossing him in the back of a cop car…) Around this time, a handful of heavily armed cops–I think GBI or state police but I’m not that sure–pushed their way through us and surrounded the car. I was at the front of the crowd, trying to put myself between them and the Black activists and protestors. The cop right in front of me had an assault rifle strapped to his chest. (You can see some of that scene here: I’m the white fingers, black shirt, and jean shorts just barely visible on the left of the third pic.)
We backed up a bit and locked arms, hoping to keep them from driving away. As soon as we’d cleared like 2 feet of space, the cops at the front of the two cars starting shoving protestors out of the way so the cars could drive off up Marietta. They’d lied to us, and they were about to just disappear this kid right out from under us.
We ran to the front of the cars in a last ditch effort to stop them. The cops with assault rifles–these may have been National Guard, actually, I can’t really remember because it happened so fast–started shoving people as hard as they could. Like, remember being in mosh pits? They shoved me and sent me flying repeatedly, but I kept getting back in their faces because I wanted to stay between them and the other protestors. I was literally pressed with my chest to their rifles, screaming at them to stop pushing us. I dug my heels into the ground as hard as I could, but they had so much armor and force and they just didn’t give a shit.
We tried everything to keep them from advancing. One of the motorcycles from the march pulled up in front of them; they shoved me around it. At one point, several of us sat down or kneeled to try to create a barrier. The cops trampled right over us. I got dragged on my knees for a couple of feet.
I got back up and tried one more time to create a barrier that could stop them. That’s when a Black activist who had been right there with me the whole time grabbed me and pulled me out of the way, telling me that we had to let them go and stay safe ourselves. He held onto me for a minute, just long enough for me to come back to myself and realize that he was right.
The cops did end up getting through the crowd and driving away. I don’t know where they took the guy they kidnapped. I’m about to call around and see if I can find anything out.
I have no idea who the guy was who saved me, but I’m thankful and I feel really guilty, even though I keep telling myself that it’s not my fault. We didn’t escalate things first, we just wanted to make sure the kid they took had due process.
All of this for a fucking cell phone that he didn’t even have on him.
TL;DR – the cops brutalized protestors so they could protect their own right to kidnap a person. Fuck the police. And by that I mean abolish the police.