Monday, January 23, 2012

Occupy Atlanta back in Woodruff Park

Four months after Atlanta police evicted Occupy Atlanta protesters from Woodruff Park, they are back. With apparently little to no fanfare, a small number of Occupiers and less than ten tents have again taken up residence the downtown Atlanta park.

The new encampment is a far cry from the group that was evicted in October. In mid-October, the activists had set up a thriving hamlet within the confines of what they called “Troy Davis Park” in a nod to the convicted cop-killer who was executed by Georgia in September. At that time, the activists in the park easily numbered more than 100 and scores of tents filled the park. There was a “free store,” a medical tent, and a “free child care” tent. Signs proclaiming “we are the 99 percent” littered the grounds of the park. Visitors were welcomed at tables under a large canopy. The sound of drums permeated the air and protesters marched up and down the sidewalks at intervals. (View photos from the October occupation here.)

In contrast, the new encampment consists of only a handful of tents and three visible occupiers, all men. Two occupiers talked while another played with his dog on the grass. The only sign in evidence, other than scribbled notes on the tents, was one with a rambling message about a “Jewish rebel,” an apparent attempt to link the encampment to Jesus Christ.

One of the occupiers said that he had been a protester during the Vietnam War. The man said that he believed that the U.S. did “need to be in Afghanistan,” but offered his belief that that the City of Atlanta discriminated on the basis of economic status as justification for the presence of the protesters.

As justification for this belief, he said that an Atlanta police officer allegedly arrested him for jaywalking while he was dressed shabbily and had his long hair down. He said that he later did the same thing in front of the same police officer while wearing business clothes with his hair tucked under a hat. On that occasion, he said the officer simply waved at him.

The man said that he had been camping in the park for several months although he did not live there full time because he “like[s] to be indoors.” He did not offer a specific date for when the protesters returned to the park after the Mayor Kasim Reed had them evicted in October. He did say that the current group was very different from the idealists who inhabited the park in the fall. He said that fights now occurred frequently. In October, both police and protesters said that there was no trouble from the Occupiers.

A downtown ambassador wasn’t sure how long the Occupy Atlanta encampment had been back either. He confirmed that the new group was not as peaceful as the original encampment. According to the ambassador, 80 to 90 percent of the new Occupiers were homeless people who spend their time in the park drinking. This often leads to violence. The larger encampment in October prohibited the use of alcohol and drugs. The ambassador did not know if the mayor plans to order the new Occupiers evicted from the park as well.

A spokesman for the mayor was not aware that Occupy Atlanta was camping in the park again. He stated that the group was allowed to be in the park until it closes at 11:00 p.m., but that no overnight camping is allowed. He planned to have Atlanta police officers investigate.

This article was first published on

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