Had [Mayor Kasim] Reed gone forward with his threat to evict the protesters we might’ve seen a photo negative of the civil rights movement, one in which a black police force arrests white protesters who are demanding that the nation heed its own conscience — and doing so just two days after the Martin Luther King Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall.
That Bull Connor moment might still be in the offing, but Mayor Reed did issue a statement saying that civil disobedience was a crucial part of the city’s history. The activists got to put one in the win column.
Yet for all the symbolic importance of Occupy Atlanta remaining in the park, their victory managed to underscore the reasons for my basic distrust of the movement. Five years ago, the city enacted stringent laws directed at the homeless population — most of whom are black — downtown. Had any of the homeless who mingled among the activists on Troy Davis Park attempted to sleep on the grounds out of necessity, not political symbolism, they would have been quickly evicted or arrested.
Thus, there are a few ways to look at the (mostly white) Occupy Atlanta, but it can’t be overlooked that much of their success lies in who they are, not what they stand for. No big city mayor wants news cameras showing images of labor organizers or white college students being dragged into police cars. I suspect that a movement that is purportedly about chastening the over-privileged has itself banked on that very privilege.
- From Loop21, Oct. 19
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