Occupy Atlanta Day Five: Behind the Scenes

The previous day’s coverage can be found here.

Alternate titles for this post were, “I was not at the march on Bank of America,” and “I succumb to Stockholm Syndrome.”

Unfortunately, yesterday I was so busy doing actual work instead of observing that I failed to make use of my handy-dandy notebook, so this post is primarily from memory. Also, as I become more involved with the organization, I have a feeling my journalistic endeavor will continue shifting from an attempt at objectivity to one of advocacy.

You have been warned.

On Tuesday, October 11th, #OccupyAtlanta planned a protest on the Bank of America building in uptown Atlanta. People were asked to assemble at 4:00, with the march planned to begin at 4:30.

I didn’t go to it, but from talking to people who did, it sounded like there were between two and three hundred protesters, and the police gave them no trouble.

For the record, I would like to point out that this AJC article is shockingly dishonest, and their description of #OccupyAtlanta is so biased I can’t believe any human being with a sense of decency would publish it. Shame on you Christian Boone and Jeremiah McWilliams. I wished the AJC had pictures of the protesters, so I could discuss this article with them in person if they continue covering the occupation.

“Police maintained only a low-key presence, both at the park and during a late afternoon march to the Midtown offices of the Bank of America, which drew about 50 people from the park and perhaps 100 who joined en route. By 5:30 p.m., the marchers had dispersed.”

There were eighty people in the park preparing to march when I left, and no other journalistic outlet tallied such a low turnout. Also, the marchers didn’t disperse by ‘5:30’ PM, the reached the Bank of America building and then many of them returned to the park.

Also, they quote Mayor Reed extensively, but the only voice given to the Occupy Movement is that of two people the AJC probably nabbed randomly on the street. Unfortunately, the consensus decision-making process makes it difficult to coordinate a media campaign, or directly respond to mainstream media questions, so the media is left to create its own narrative.

“Reed said the protesters have presented him with a list of demands. They want the park renamed for Troy Anthony Davis, the man executed last month for murdering a Savannah police officer. Second, the protesters want Reed to camp with them overnight in the park. Third, they want assurances that they won’t be arrested.”

This is a lie. These demands were discussed Monday night, and no list of demands was compiled. The only thing the General Assembly agreed on was to ask the mayor to not send in the police to crack the protesters’ heads. The sentence about Troy Davis does not bother to mention the controversy around his death, and anyone who wasn’t familiar with him sees him as a cop killer instead of a possibly innocent man who was executed. I have mixed feelings about the circumstances surrounding his execution, but not bothering to mention the controversy is dishonest. Also, the General Assembly on Monday night had a heated debate whether they should ask the Mayor to change the name of the park, and there was nowhere near consensus. The demand was blocked, and as far as I know has not been discussed again (someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am).

Shortly before I left my house, I received an e-mail (finally) from the logistics committee, which I had volunteered to help. Krystal asked about my availability, and I figured it would be easier to talk to her in person rather than orchestrate it over e-mail. I arrived at Woodruff Troy Davis Park at shortly before four and set out to find her. Most people I talked to didn’t know who she was, and those who did didn’t know where she was. Par for the Occupy Atlanta course. Resolved not to be thwarted in my attempts to help the movement, I went to the headquarters to try and find her.

The headquarters are on 60 Walton street, and if you are interested in becoming an active participant in Occupy Atlanta I suggest you head there and look for someone who needs help doing something. It worked much better for me than signing up and waiting to be contacted. I’ll save my fourteen readers the five days it took me to figure this out.

After asking around I found Vincent, who I wrote about on the first day, and he said Krystal was on hiatus, the email she’d sent me an hour earlier notwithstanding. Weird, but whatever. I followed him around for a few minutes, and ended up hopping in a truck headed for the grocery store.

We went to Patel Brothers, an Indian grocery store near Decatur. The guy in charge (who asked not to be named) spent a hundred-and-twenty-five dollars on fifty pounds of potatoes, fifty pounds of onions, ten pounds of green beans, a bunch of cauliflower, carrots, and some other stuff I’m probably forgetting.

After that, we headed to a local soup kitchen (the organization also wishing to not be named). With the cooperation of some members of FoodsNotBombsAtlanta, a local group that organizes weekly meals for the homeless, we spent the next four hours chopping vegetables. It was a much more relaxed setting than the park, and the more intimate environment allowed me to actually get to know some members of the movement, which I had trouble with in the large group setting, because I am shy.

It also felt good to do something concrete for the movement—even if it was as banal as cooking dinner, compared to listening to the General Assembly and taking notes. Marching on Bank of America may have been interesting, but there will be other marches. And other dinners to cook.

We finished cooking dinner, fed the scraps to some nearby goats, and had the food set up in the park around 10:30 (the exact time escapes me). I’ve never worked in a soup kitchen before, so maybe it gets old, but feeding the occupiers and, especially, the homeless was rewarding in a way I haven’t felt since defending my little brother from a bully when I was in high school. Copper, the man in charge of the logistics area, cried several times over the next few hours. He has spent the past seven years providing for the homeless around Woodruff Troy Davis Park, and he said it was beautiful to watch an actual group of people help them out. They have blankets, plenty of food to eat, and are free to sleep without being harassed by the police.

Atlanta has a homeless problem, and the city’s primary action is to use the police force to harass them.

I talked to several homeless people (90% of whom were black men), and I was touched for their genuine appreciation for what Occupy Atlanta had done for them. The movement isn’t providing paid jobs, although some of the more soundminded homeless have been recruited as volunteers, but Occupy Atlanta is aware of their problem on a level that the rest of the city isn’t, and before last night I would count myself in that group.

A guy who hadn’t been to the protest before came by with a small donation of a can opener and those little packs of plastic cutlery and napkins you get from ordering takeout. He seemed somewhat abashed by his small donation, but I guarantee you it was appreciated and what he gave us will be used. Also, if anyone has old clothes (preferably of the warm variety) or blankets, Occupy Atlanta would be glad to take them off your hands (so long as their clean!).

I see now how the people deeply involved could see the protests as a movie. It’s still an unhealthy view, but I now find it understandable.

I encourage everyone to at least check out the protests and Woodruff Park, and if they are able to also donate their time. The movement’s leadership (which doesn’t exist, officially) is overworked and in sore need of sleep. My presence in the soup kitchen meant six more man hours that those dedicated to feeding Occupy Atlanta had for other tasks. Although I was an atrocious vegetable chopper compared to those seasoned veterans, so maybe it’s more like I saved them three man hours. Still, every little bit helps.

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    • Ben
    • October 12th, 2011

    Thanks for this, especially the corrections on the AJC article. I was at the march and was also shocked at the low crowd estimate. I was also very disappointed by the “demands,” which I didn’t know were inaccurately reported. This report and Sara Amis’s article are keeping me in the game. Thanks.

    • deconstructionapplied
    • October 13th, 2011

    You’re welcome. I confirmed yesterday that no official list of demands was presented to the mayor.

    I was initially skeptical of the movement, but I’ve become more invested as time has gone on. It’s hard to organize something like this, especially in a city without an organized grassroots left. Every day I am more and more impressed with the movement, and the way the people running the movement (who are mostly under 30) are able to overcome the new challenges they face every day.

    A formal list of demands and all that is still some ways away, I think, mostly because at the moment the movement is focused on the technical difficulties of running the occupation. I hope that once they’ve created an organization that more or less works they can move on to eliciting broader support and political action.

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