June 2: the state kidnapped someone out from under us in Atlanta

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.

Donate to ATL Solidarity Fund

Mental health after a protest

Draft syllabus statement on Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter: a statement on this course and its relation to the protests

As our course topic [James Baldwin] should make clear, I believe that Black lives matter. I am a prison and police abolitionist; that is, I believe that our entire criminal justice system should be dismantled immediately, including eliminating the police and closing all prisons, in favor of alternative models of community safety and care.

I include this statement because I want you to know immediately, before our course begins, where I stand. I do not believe there is any benefit to pretending to be ideologically neutral in this space or in this moment.

If you or your friends plan to engage this summer in the protests currently underway, I support you wholeheartedly and I am here for you as a resource. I will be your emergency contact, if you need one; if you are detained, I will be your advocate (including helping you get bailed out of jail); if you need advice or emotional support, I will provide it or get you in touch with a trained professional. If you are in Atlanta, I can pick you up from any protest and get you home safely. 

If, in your capacity as a student, you disagree with me about police and prison abolition, that is okay. You will not be punished for holding different beliefs about the police in this class. 

Finally, review the non-discrimination statement. As it states, statements that are racist will not be tolerated here.

Friday Female Comics Creator: Ruth Atkinson

Back in the day, and I don’t know if y’all can believe this, but back in the day, there used to be magazines for girls that included comics.  Crazy, right?  But it’s totally true.  One of them was Miss America, which started life as Miss America Comics, published first by Timely Comics and then by Marvel.  Both featured the superhero Miss America, a “socially aware teenage heiress” with superhuman strength and the ability to fly.

Sadly, superheroes were on their way out of fashion in the mid-1940s, and Miss America quickly took a backseat in her own magazine to teen romance comics.  But luckily for us, Miss America #2 introduced a romance character who would soon become a lasting superhero in her own right — the sassy, seriously wonderful Patsy Walker.

Patsy was written by Stan Lee but was created by female comics artist Ruth Atkinson.  She began life as a romance-comedy heroine and was quite popular, appearing in at least 7 titles.  But she soon grew beyond her own comics and became a lasting part of the Marvel Universe proper.

Patsy and Hedy made a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), establishing them in the Marvel Universe. The superhero-team comic The Defenders #89 (Nov. 1980) further established that the earlier stories were fictional works published within the fictional Marvel Universe itself, and written by Patsy’s mother Dorothy Walker though based upon Patsy’s own life and friends. The Patsy Walker profile in Marvel Legacy: The 1960s Handbook #1 (2006) establishes that Walker indeed experienced many of the events from these stories.

Patsy Walker #95 and the science-fiction anthology Journey into Mystery #69 (both June 1961) are the first modern comic books labeled “Marvel Comics”, with each showing an “MC” box on its cover. (from Wikipedia)

By the 70s, Patsy was angling to get herself a superpower.  She became Hellcat, the feisty redheaded crimefighter who teamed up with the Avengers and the Defenders.  Hellcat would later have adorably weird adventures as the superhero assigned to Alaska (as part of the 50 State Initiative), written by the incomparable Kathryn Immonen.

Atkinson didn’t just make her mark on the Marvel Universe with Patsy, though.  She also created Millie the Model, yet another character who was still seen living it up in the first decade of the 21st century.

Sadly, Atkinson retired from comics when she married.  Even sadder, though, is the fact that her work doesn’t seem to be available in reprint anywhere.  You can find some information about the comics she worked on at atlastales.com.  A handful of issues are available on ebay, but they mostly appear to date from after Atkinson’s departure on the titles.  If you have a hot tip on where to find some original or reprinted Atkinson work, please let me know!

Millie and Patsy are both worthy of their own Style Friday post.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to get a suitably vintage-amazing outfit together.  In lieu, stop by my tumblr today, where I’ll be posting style-inspiring images of Atkinson’s work all day long!

Social networks in the media and the erasure of women

I’ve seen mentions of Diaspora* popping up all over my feeds this week.  It seems like a great project, but I have a few issues with the media attention it’s getting.  The New York Times piece I quote below is only one example out of many.

Working with Mr. Salzberg and Mr. Grippi are Raphael Sofaer, 19, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy, 20 — “four talented young nerds,” Mr. Salzberg says — all of whom met at New York University’s Courant Institute. They have called their project Diaspora* and intend to distribute the software free, and to make the code openly available so that other programmers can build on it. As they describe it, the Diaspora* software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share. Mr. Sofaer says that centralized networks like Facebook are not necessary. “In our real lives, we talk to each other,” he said. “We don’t need to hand our messages to a hub. What Facebook gives you as a user isn’t all that hard to do. All the little games, the little walls, the little chat, aren’t really rare things. The technology already exists.”

A teacher and digital media researcher at N.Y.U., Finn Brunton, said that their project — which does not involve giant rounds of venture capital financing before anyone writes a line of code — reflected “a return of the classic geek means of production: pizza and ramen and guys sleeping under the desks because it is something that it is really exciting and challenging.”

I’m really excited to see Diaspora* in action, especially in light of this missive on why gender is a text field on the service.

That being said, I think we should be clear about some things.  These 4 boys are not the only ones creating open source, non-hierarchical social networks.  Dreamwidth has been offering an alternative to Livejournal for quite a while now.  The Organization for Transformative Works, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of fan culture, is doing the same thing around a very different type of interaction with the Archive of Our Own (and other projects still in the works).  Both of these are run and coded primarily by women, many of whom are invested in teaching other women how to code.

An open source alternative to Facebook is likely destined to get more media attention in our present moment, with The Social Network still on the radar.  But that doesn’t mean that what women do is less deserving of press time.

Let’s not lose sight of these immense achievements made by women in light of 4 cute computer boys from New York.