Monday, January 25, 2016

Public Pressure Works in the Case of Anthony Hill

Last week for four days, three nights protesters in Atlanta occupied space outside of the Dekalb County courthouse. Rise Up Georgia and friends set up tents and slept outside to bring in the indictment of Dekalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen. Olsen is responsible for fatally shooting 27 year old Anthony Hill last March.

Beginning on Monday night, protesters occupied the space outside the Dekalb County courthouse. The first night was harshly cold. Protesters put out a call for donations of hot food and warm clothes and the community responded. The first night began with about six tents or sleeping stations and the number grew to over ten by Wednesday night. Each tent slept 3-6 people. Each morning started early with donations of hot coffee and breakfast. Protesters provided relief through organized shifts. Many community members came and left throughout the occupation providing much needed opportunities for protesters to get some rest.
Thursday was the final stretch. The grand jury heard the case and the decision was to be announced that evening. The crowd grew and so did the anticipation of the announcement. Protesters were more than ready to return home to the warmth and comfort of their homes but were also willing to remain at the courthouse until the decision was announced. It was originally predicted that the decision would be announced around 4:00PM. When the clock reach 5:00 and no word was given, protesters began to get worried.

At about 7:30pm the DA called a press-conference and the decision was to be announced. The crowd grew outside of the courthouse as the press conference was streamed live from inside the courthouse. Officer Olsen would be indicted on all six charges and an arrest warrant was issued. There were lots of tears of joy and relief amongst the crowd. Immediately the victory chants begun as they awaited Anthony’s family to exit the courthouse and address the crowd. The family and the very committed individuals of Rise Up Georgia recognized the indictment as win but are dedicated to getting justice through a conviction.

One thing that's clear is that sustained community organizing and public pressure has elevated this case. Every march, rally, night spent in the freezing cold, and online petition has helped create a crisis of morality that DeKalb County has been forced to take action on. Good organizing has brought the family and friends of Anthony Hill together with veterans, advocates for those living with mental illness and community members together to speak with one voice. 

American Friends Service Committee's Atlanta Economic Justice Program is excited to be counted as an allie to this important work and will continue to search for ways to provide support.

Avery Jackson
American Friends Service Committee

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Guess What Home DIDN'T Flood in Peoplestown?

Street view of Tanya Washington's home on 12/23/15
Just over a week ago Meteorologists reported record rainfall on the days leading up to Christmas 
which flooded various areas in and around metro Atlanta. Wanna know who's home didn't flood at all? Tanya Washington's home , in fact her entire property had zero signs of flooding.

Backyard view of Tanya Washington's home on 12/23/15

Contrary to the City's insistence that all of the homes on the block it has threatened to take by eminent domain in Peoplestown flood, the attached pictures of Tanya Washington's house depict no flooding.  The fact that her house did not flood during record-breaking rainfall is consistent with the position she has maintained throughout the fight to remain in her home, that her 91 year old house (which contains a full basement) does not flood.  It also supports the determination, reflected on the registered survey of her property, that she is "NOT in an area having special flood hazards." (see attached 2011 survey).  If the City's argument for eminent domain based on phantom flooding is recognized as legitimate then many areas in and around the City are vulnerable to the City's taking authority, which sets a dangerous precedence for City homeowners and business owners.  

Side view of Tanya Washington's property on 12/23/15
Why does this pose a threat? During our late December bursts of showers flooding occurred all over the city. Businesses and homes all over metro Atlanta had flooded yards, flooded basements, and streets had flooded cars. Forced displacement should always be an absolute last resort and it should be considered criminal to attempted to force someone, like Tanya Washington, from her home on the pretense of flooding when flooding simply doesn't occur.

The fight against mass displacement is Peoplestown under the pretense of flooding(that in some cases has never happened) is really the fight against gentrification, it's the fight to allow folks to stay in the community they love and helped build despite rising interest in the property by the business and development community. Peoplestown and community's like it can and should be developed. It's possibly to develop a community in a way that benefits those that have been holding it down before it was cool to move there.

We strongly encourage all to sign and share Tanya and her neighbor's online petition by CLICKING HERE.

Watch campaign video here:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Santa Claus Delivers Lumps Of Coal to Mayor Kasim Reed!

 Today Santa Claus Joined Peoplestown Residents Fighting to Stay in Their Homes.

Residents in Peoplestown who have been fighting to stay in their homes, despite the cities continued threat to us eminent domain to remove them, plan to brought Christmas cheer to Atlanta's City Hall. Residents were be joined by Santa Claus as they sang rewritten Christmas songs around the giant Christmas tree on the first floor of city hall.

Residents and supporters then joined Santa as he delivers a lump of coal to Mayor Kasim Reed's office. Unfortunately Mayor Reed made Santa's naughty list for refusing to work with residents that are desperately fighting to stay in their homes and their neighbors who want more transparency in development projects in the Turner Field neighborhoods.

As of now eminent domain proceedings have not begun, and there is speculation that the Mayor is reluctant to do this because the part may include some sort of non flooding related development, which is what many in the community have feared from the beginning.

Senator Vincent Fort also joined the group of residents in prayer, song, and action.
Check out the campaign video here.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Peoplestown Residents Stand Against Their Displacement, Will You Have Their Backs?


Dear Friend: 

The picture above is the view from my kitchen window last week as the 3 houses next door to me were torn down by City of Atlanta bulldozers.  To the City these were simply parcels in the way of their plans to build a park and pond.  To me these were homes filled with families, with whom I had relationships and I miss them.  Despite the City of Atlanta's misrepresentations, THESE HOMES DID NOT FLOOD, and that makes the loss that much more profound. My remaining neighbors and I are determined that our homes and families will not meet the same fate.  WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!!  

After weeks of protest, Mayor Kasim Reed finally agreed to meet with us.  The meeting will take place on Tuesday Dec. 1 and we are asking supporters to be with us during the rally, press conference and meetings from 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. If you can't be there please call the Mayor's office on Nov. 30 and/or Dec. 1 (404.330.6100).  There is a phone script below for the call but feel free to freestyle :-)

Weeks of media pressure, sit ins, press conferences and rallies inspired the Mayor to decide that our neighbor Ms. Mattie Jackson (93) will stay in her home.  He said the City's plan would be worked around her house.  We are delighted for Ms. Mattie and we are meeting with the Mayor to demand the same treatment. We demand that the Mayor DO THE RIGHT THING!  Thank you in advance for your support.  Together we can make the difference!!

Please mark Tuesday Dec. 1 on your calendar and circulate theevent and the enclosed Face Book event post and encourage others to stand with us at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 on the Trinity side of City Hall (55 Trinity Street) or make a call on our behalf. 

Peace and Gratitude,

Tanya Washington and Mr. and Mrs. Darden
(Peoplestown Residents, Atlanta, GA)

Phone Script for Call to Mayor's Office (404.330.6100) on Monday Nov. 30 and/or Tuesday Dec. 1 from 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

My name is ____________ and I am calling in support of the Peoplestown residents who are meeting with Mayor Kasim Reed to demand that they remain in their homes.  I want the Mayor to do the right thing and allow them stay in their homes just like he decided that Ms. Jackson can stay in her home.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mayor Reed Agrees to Meet With Residents After 3hr Sit-in

Today the remaining residents of Peoplestown descended upon City Hall and the Mayor's office to demand the meeting he promised them weeks ago.  A group of 50 people held a sit-in at the Mayor's office until his Chief of Staff scheduled a meeting with James and Bertha Darden and Tanya Washington, whose homes bookend the block that the Department of Watershed has slated for demolition to build a park and pond. 

After holding a spirited press conference on the steps of city hall and then a three hour sit-in the Mayor office finally agreed to a meeting with terms the residents were happy with.

 The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday December 1 at 10:30 and 11:00 a.m.  The Mayor's office has agreed to direct the Department of Watershed to refrain from threatening the residents with legal action until the meeting takes place.  The residents are grateful that they will be able to enjoy the Thanksgiving holidays without fearing being pushed out of their homes.  They are looking forward to a meeting with the Mayor focused on their demand that the City's plan accommodate their homes and that they, like their neighbor Ms. Mattie Jackson, be permitted to remain in a community they love and helped build.

Today's bold resident led action is a reminder that regular everyday people can stand up against gentrification and mass displacement. At American Friends Service Committee we believe that communities should be controlled by those that live in them, not developers or other entities in search of new profit streams. Today is a small victory in a much broader fight.