The Return of Politics Means the Death of the Movement

For Michael Brown. For Eric Garner. Against the entire pathetic form of survival that the police defend: For two weeks, demonstrations across the country blocked highways, bridges, tunnels, and roadways. Many organizing groups, formal and informal, emerged in Atlanta to bring this struggle to the largest city in the South. The Atlanta-Ferguson Solidarity Committee is one such group. We called for a demonstration and occupation of Woodruff Park to occur on December 6th. This call was primarily an attempt to introduce a new tactic in the struggle which would broaden both the terrain and the scope of the social movement that has thus far taken several different forms – from the the rally and speak-out, to the die-in, to the blockades, street fighting, and rioting. Each of these events, but also all of the organizational work behind them, presented a unique opportunity for us to find each other, to act adequately to the situation, or else to allow our struggle to collapse back into the same depressing politics that Ferguson seemed to break.

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Peachtree St., Atlanta GA, December 6, 2014

We want to thank everyone who turned out to the demonstration. We all enjoyed our time together, but we have to admit our failure to achieve our stated goal of occupation. We have composed the following reflections on recent events in Atlanta as an attempt to highlight the fault lines and (im)possibilities contained within the struggles and upheavals in the context of black and brown anti-police activity across the country. We extend this analysis as an effort toward the development of a collective intelligence which makes us all equipped to carry these moments further. The  way  forward, whether  this movement has already reached its peak or  not, is  certainly a matter of how we get organized to live and struggle together.

WOODRUFF PARK

Two nights ago, around 150 people – many of color and many white – showed up to Woodruff Park at 7PM. We gathered  on the sidewalk outside of the park facing Peachtree Street. Many held signs, and much of the first hour and a half was filled with intense and meaningful conversation. We shared chili, listened to young men freestyle about Eric Garner, Amerikkka, and the police, and began to find out where each other stood. While some participants arrived with the intention of staying overnight, most came planning only to stay until the 11PM cutoff declared by Mayor Kasim Reed, citing jobs, school, scholarships, or fear of arrest. Notably, no camping preparations were visible, although some said they had supplies elsewhere.

Around 8:30PM, the group decided to march through downtown Atlanta. Blocking streets and intersections, the march went through the corporate business district, populated that night by middle-class concert-goers, ferris wheel riders, and Alabama fans out for the SEC championship, and maintained a high energy accompanied by the lowest police presence of Ferguson-inspired actions in Atlanta thus far. Despite efforts made by some to go to the plaza of Five Points Marta Station – presumably with the intent to start an occupation there – the crowd returned to the park around 9pm, where a speak-out began.

The speak out revealed the complexity and heterogeneity of people, desires, and intentions present. While a white woman spoke about the racial unity that made the movement so beautiful, an older black man from L.A. spoke about how we needed to get strapped in order to shoot back at the police. When a black woman affirmed the need for black people to police their own communities, another woman of color spoke in favor of self-protection but against policing. And when a few participants – both black and white – started chanting “How do we fix the system? Buy black! Buy black!,” a young black man exclaimed that racism is maintained through capitalism itself, and a woman of color pointed out that “people don’t buy from Walmart because they want to, but because they have five dollars in their pockets.” The complicities and differences that crossed this space, as in many other spaces created in Atlanta over the past two weeks, flew in the face of lines drawn along race and identity. Similar tensions played out on November 25th, when some protesters — both black and white — blocked the interstate, threw rocks at police, and damaged property; while others — both black and white — physically prevented some participants from doing anything but “marching peacefully.”

After the speak out, some people repeated the call to “do something” and advocated for another march. The decision to march a second time was created by several overlapping, sometimes conflicting, desires. Some wanted to increase “visibility” of the struggle, others wanted to block more roads and disrupt businesses, and still others may have had goals of which we are unaware. Here we saw what has been an underlying tension in the movement for months: the separation between the democratic struggle for recognition and policy change and the illegal struggle against the conditions of daily life. Where some have pushed for increased visibility, reforms and inclusions, others have simply gotten organized to block everything, to bring this horrifying society to a halt, and to continually innovate bolder forms of fighting together.

During the second march, the most conflictual moment of the night played out as a demonstrator was nearly run over by a civilian driver. That car was then quickly surrounded by people who eventually had to kick and hit it in order to get it to stop. When the group returned to the park for the second time – now at about seventy people – several different individuals encouraged the crowd to begin setting up for an occupation (via the ‘mic check,’ a tactic learned from the Occupy movement three years ago), either at Woodruff Park or at the Five Points Marta Station. These calls went largely unanswered, other than by an announcement that Mayor Reed had stated that the park would be closed at 11PM and protestors would be removed at that time. Some people decided to utilize the time remaining to organize for future actions, stating that “we can’t let this die out.” A plan emerged for a die-in at Phipps Plaza this upcoming Saturday and others suggested weekly meet ups at the park. A few minutes before eleven, around thirty people took the streets to the Marta station and were quickly confronted by a small number of Marta police who failed to disperse them. The crowd was immediately antagonistic and the officers backed down. With relatively no police presence, the remaining participants shared food, conversation, and debate before slowly trickling away as it became apparent that there were neither the numbers nor the supplies necessary to sustain an occupation.

November 25, Atlanta, GA -- 75/85 Connecter blockade

I-75/I-85 Connector, Atlanta, GA, November 25, 2014

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

The unfortunate end of any struggle which contains within it the possibility of changing everything – of reuniting every person with their own power, of collective liberation – will be a massive return to normalcy.  We are beginning to see the coverage from Ferguson shift toward a focus on the difficulty of getting “back to normal” and away from how people there can establish greater autonomy in their lives.  The apex upon which the future of this struggle hinges emerged in a few sentences traded between participants toward the end of the night:  some voices called out “when can we meet next?” and other  voices called back “what can we do together, with the people that are here now?” Although we look forward to future actions in which more people can meet one another, we worry that the repetition of what is now becoming the most popular tactic of the struggle – the die-in – will  fail to carry the struggle far enough to actually displace the power relations which make racialized policing possible. The intelligence located in the highway blockades has been the shared perception that power operates through the daily lives of real people, on the way we are shuttled around by the economy, in the functioning and flows of cities themselves. We worry that this intelligence is lost, partially to our own fears, and partially to the reappearance of “message driven protests” – as if the goal was to end this movement as quickly as possible by identifying what terms or reforms could make everyone go back home. We have watched the blockades move from highways to boulevards to smaller streets and then to sidewalks. The next step, we are guessing, is for them to end completely. On December 6th, it seemed that many people were not only materially unprepared to take and hold space, but were also certain that the police would come and break up the occupation violently. We have learned the slogan “Choke the system! Breathe together!”, but we seem unable, at this moment, to do either.

BREATHE TOGETHER

And to risk harshness for the sake of brevity: it’s not exactly a surprise that the number of people out in force has shrunk immensely as the chants have turned from “hands up, don’t shoot” to “buy black” and calls for better representation — as if the political electorate, the mayor, and the police weren’t already black in this city; as if the goal of this struggle was to keep us as passive consumers invested in a broken political system. We do not believe that the truths that these events grew out of have simply disappeared, just as the truths that created Occupy did not disappear. We still know that alone “I can’t breathe” but together we can. What remains to be done is not critique or condemnation — we only have to decide how we will live together with this shared perception that we are stronger together, that we can shut it all down if we give ourselves the means to live in the disruption. And then to actually do it.

12/6: What to Expect Tonight and Why You Can’t Miss It

The Blockades Shut the Path and Open the Way
Over the past two weeks, our attention has been drawn to the demonstrations of collective power from Ferguson to Atlanta and across the entire country: we have shut down highways, bridges, tunnels, and roadways. In so doing, we have revealed something to ourselves and each other about what it means to struggle, who are our friends, and what is holding us back. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among many other black and brown people who have been murdered by police all over Atlanta, the country, and the world, are testaments to the fact that what is at stake in our growing struggles is not just another legal policy, not just another political representative, not just a police chief, but life itself.

The time we have spent in the streets, in organizing meetings, over shared meals, has been time we have spent finding each other and finding ourselves. The occupation, as a laboratory for generating new ways of living, is an attempt to extend those times and to bring them closer to the center of what counts as resistance.

Where the blockades slow traffic, the occupation slows time. And that is exactly what we need right now. Time to breathe together, to share food, ideas and most of all to give ourselves the means to actually move forward with our vision of how life should be.

Why Tonight Matters
If we can revitalize more ways of fighting, they might spread. Everyone is watching this moment. In order for us to really change everything, to act appropriately to the situation, we have to build a dynamic, unpredictable struggle. Even if we fail in holding space, we will succeed in broadening the idea of what is possible in the face of these disgusting racist attacks and events like them that never seem to end.

Finally, What to Expect
Arrive at Woodruff Park at 7pm. Please dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. There could never be enough water, food, and bedding. We will be providing what we can but everyone should feel empowered and encouraged to bring these things to share with others. Sharing is the lifeblood of movements like ours.

It seems likely that it may rain at some point tonight or that the terrain may still be wet when we arrive. Rest assured there’s a Plan B. Rain or shine, meet at Woodruff Park. We will march together.

We will have assemblies in which we will share our experiences, ideas, and announcements. These assemblies are for talking, not making decisions, in the interest of time and of people who cannot attend an entire assembly or who are not comfortable speaking in large groups. Action plans, resource coordination, and so on should be coordinated by organizing circles and working groups which anyone can initiate with anyone else. If black-only or person-of-color-only working groups or assemblies emerge, we urge white people to respect the need for such spaces without feeling cast out or disempowered.

A jail support number will be announced at the event for all who arrive. In case of arrests, we are all responsible for standing with our prisoners. All arrestees will have a number to call if they do not have one already.

Please feel free to bring your own signs, banners, and literature.
Let’s make it big.

#ChokeTheSystem #BreatheTogether
Facebook Event

ALERT: Call Out For Mass Indefinite Occupation

Following the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson in the brutal murder of Michael Brown, and the non-indictment of officer Daniel Pantaleo in the filmed strangulation of Eric Garner, we are announcing a mass indefinite occupation of Woodruff Park this Saturday, December 6, at 7pm.

We have been spat in the face. We know that others share this grief and rage with us. We are calling for everyone to join us in a mass experiment involving taking space, coordinating resources, and sharing ideas to continue the fight against this present disaster. The fight against police violence cannot be allowed to slowly wither away. For this reason, we think it is necessary to create a space for continuous organizing and we believe an occupation can provide this.

We stand in solidarity with rebels in Ferguson, New York City, Mexico and everywhere else fighting against police violence.

Check https://atlfergusonsolidarity.wordpress.com for updates or email atlfergusonsolidarity@riseup.net for questions.

Come prepared with tents, sleeping bags and food to stay overnight.

#WeCantBreathe #BreatheTogether
#LiveIn because we are sick of people dying.

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Rage and Despair in Eric Garner Ruling

“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
-Frantz Fanon

For a second week in a row, we have been spat in the face. The non-indictment of Daniel Pantaleo for his filmed strangulation of Eric Garner is utterly and absolutely intolerable.

The Atlanta-Ferguson Solidarity Committee formed in the desperate and justified struggle to fight for the memory of Michael Brown and now, one week later, we find ourselves in the midst of another disaster. We extend solidarity to all of the brave people who are fighting also for Eric Garner, from New York, to Oakland, to Atlanta, and everywhere else.

We have been coordinating and planning for something big this weekend. Stay tuned.

Fortune favors the bold.

12/2 An Incomplete Timeline of the Struggle So Far

On November 24th 2014, the prosecutor’s office of St. Louis County, MO announced that it would not indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown. Immediately, the self-organized struggle against the police in Ferguson, MO and around the country took to the streets. The Ferguson skyline filled with smoke as thousands rampaged through the suburban streets and blocked the highways. In Oakland, CA hundreds burned trash bins, clashed with police, and marched onto the highway. In New York, demonstrators blocked the Brooklyn, Triboroughs, and Verazano bridges. This was only the beginning of what has become a nationwide composition, echoing back and forth from city to city in a pulsing rhythm of rebellion and refusal.

From our perspective, the struggle must either double down or begin to go the way of all social movements: a slow, depressing path toward closure and defeat. We have collected an incomplete list of events which have occurred in Atlanta, GA following the announcement. Please email atlfergusonsolidarity [at] riseup [dot] net to recommend events to this list. We do not compile for the sake of closure or coherence, but to contribute to the overall struggle for autonomy and self-directed struggle against the police and the world they defend.

AUGUST 14TH: Hundreds join “National Moment of Silence,” march through downtown Decatur

Following days of unrest and protest in Ferguson, MO, protests occur simultaneously in dozens of US cities. Hundreds rally in downtown Decatur, listening to speeches and chanting. Afterward, several dozen people march around the city square chanting anti-police slogans and blocking traffic.

AUGUST 17TH: Thousands rally downtown at the CNN Center, march through downtown and surrounding neighborhoods

Around 3,000 people flood the plaza outside of the CNN Center listening to speakers from multiple organizations and schools. Nearly the entire rally marches around the area, blocking roads. Many adorn surgical masks and bandanas. Afterword, several dozen continue marching for 4 hours, blocking intersections and roadways, with heavy police presence.

AUGUST 20TH: Hundreds rally and march at West End Park, push police out of neighborhood

Hundreds gather for rally and speak-out before marching through Historic West End, chanting and blocking roadways. Upon returning to the park, around 70 people surround squad cars and a police motorcycle brigade, eventually forcing them all to retreat from the neighborhood.

OCTOBER 22ND: Hundreds march for national day against police, light flares, a few dozen block I-75/85 connector downtown

Around 100 people gather in Woodruff Park before marching through Five Points MARTA, picking up many more people, lighting road flares and blocking traffic. A dozen people march onto the I-75/85 connector while the rest watch and cheer in support from the overpass above. A few dozen more join the blockade and exit before arrests can be made. The march continues through Old Fourth Ward, also blocking Freedom Parkway and other large roads. This event is covered by national press and photographs spread virally online — an image of things to come.

NOVEMBER 24TH: Grand Jury Announces no indictment, clergy and “community groups” meet with Atlanta police

Marches, blockades, and riots break out in Ferguson, St. Louis, Oakland, Seattle, NYC and elsewhere. Student occupations of university buildings in Berkeley and Santa Cruz, CA proclaim solidarity with the movement.

In Atlanta, clergy and “community groups” coordinate with law enforcement in order to avoid violent protests.

NOVEMBER 25TH: Four hour vigil, highway blockade, clashes with police, dozens arrested

Thousands gather at Underground Atlanta on the day following the announcement that Wilson would face no charges. The event is planned to last from 5pm to 9pm — four hours for the amount of time Michael Brown’s body laid out in the street. Music blasts from loudspeakers between speeches and chanting. Around 7pm, hundreds depart from the vigil and confront police at the capitol before marching onto the I-75/85 connector, as a few dozen had done weeks before. Here, demonstrators clash with police, throwing rocks and de-arresting one another, before marching away onto Edgewood Avenue. The march circles back through Old Fourth Ward into downtown — facing pepper spray and riot police in the process — where it meets back up with the vigil. Again, hundreds march through downtown, vandalize storefronts in a wealthy area and are eventually dispersed by heavily militarized police, who arrest over 20 people from the sidewalk. Later, more are arrested near the CNN Center.

NOVEMBER 26TH: Dozens march, heavy police presence

Dozens march through downtown and are pushed onto the sidewalk by police. APD mobilize heavily for this event, fearing that events would again fall out of their tightly managed control. Interstate on-ramps surrounding downtown are patrolled and guarded by cops. Chief Turner announces that all Atlanta police have had their vacations canceled. Mayor Reed attempts to divide the struggle.

Atlanta-Ferguson Solidarity Committee issues a statement about previous nights’ demonstration, decrying police militarization.

NOVEMBER 27TH: Again, heavy police presence mobilized for small protest

NOVEMBER 28TH (Black Friday): Demonstrators rally outside Wal-Mart in solidarity with fight for $15/hr minimum wage

Demonstrators push their way into a Wal-Mart and disrupt commerce before being forced back onto the sidewalk.

NOVEMBER 29TH: Die-in at Lenox Mall foiled by security, protesters arrested at Atlantic Station, rally outside jail in solidarity

Dozens unfurl banners at Atlantic Station Mall and begin chanting, after being pushed out of Lenox Mall by private security and police. Demonstrators seek to disrupt “business as usual.” One protester is arrested while lying face down. Small crowd gathers at Fulton County Jail to demonstrate solidarity with the arrestee.

NOVEMBER 30TH: Protest at Stonecrest Mall in Lithonia, GA

DECEMBER 1ST: US Attorney General talks at Ebenezer Baptist Church, interrupted by chanting

Attorney General Eric Holder, Mayor Kasim Reed, and Police Chief George Turner speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Old Fourth Ward. They discuss their plan to outfit all police with outward facing cameras. Youth in the crowd disrupt the event, chanting and walking out. Dozens gather outside decrying the “leaders” inside. This is the second generational split of this nature.

December 3: Demonstrators march for Eric Garner

A few hundred people gather at North Avenue MARTA to march against the non-indictment of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner. March stays mostly on the sidewalk, briefly venturing in the road intermittently.

December 4: Over 100 gather at Underground Atlanta, march to Atlanta City Detention Center

A large, leaderless, protest gathers across from Five Points MARTA, chanting and banging drums before marching to the steps at Atlanta City Detention Center. Police presence is heavy.

85blockadedHundreds blocking I-75/85 connector near Capitol on 11/25

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The struggle continues. Email atlfergusonsolidarity [at] riseup [dot] net for contact, questions.

We are an autonomous organizing initiative committed to coordinating demonstrations and spreading counter-info on solidarity efforts with Ferguson, MO protesters in response to the death of Mike Brown by officer Darren Wilson.

Re: 11/25 #HANDSUP Atlanta Demonstration in Solidarity with Ferguson

As organizers of last night’s march in solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, MO, we would like to express our utmost thanks and awe to all of the brave people who showed up and put their safety on the line. While we did not necessarily plan for the group to march onto the downtown connector, we are pleased to have participated in this historical moment. We also would urge others to consider why demonstrators in LA, NYC, St Louis, Seattle, Ferguson, and elsewhere have chosen the same tactic. While some have chosen to highlight the vandalism and clashes with police in Atlanta last night, we would like to urge everyone to remember that Michael Brown’s life can never be replaced – unlike some broken windows. We condemn the militarization of the police at last nights protest, and at the use of force by supposed “nonviolent” demonstrators against angry, frustrated youth in the crowd. We will be helping to coordinate further demonstrations in light of this immense tragedy. Check atlfergusonsolidarity.wordpress.com for updates and announcements and also #Shutitdownatl and #atltoferguson on social media.

– Atlanta-Ferguson Solidarity Committee