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The Occupations: Anarchy Waiting for Crisis

What I saw at the copycat Wall Street “occupation” in downtown Atlanta.

by
Mary Grabar

Bio

October 15, 2011 - 5:05 pm

The gathering began at 5:10 p.m. with a young man who began the “mic check” sans actual microphone in the now standard way by having the audience repeat his words. He announced a lawsuit against Emory, the target of ire, along with “corporate interests” and the Chamber of Commerce. Somehow bullhorns materialized and three stern-looking men wearing bright orange construction worker vests used them to give testimony about how they became homeless. Lined up behind them were some even sterner looking men with shirts reading “Security.” In over an hour of wandering around the park I had not seen one police officer or real security guard.

Noise-makers were passed around after instructions were given. A few well-beaten plastic buckets were put to use as drums, and a trumpet and guitar joined in to the tune of the chant, “Emory, we’re here to say, Peachtree-Pine is gonna stay.”

I stayed behind a few paces of the crowd that numbered about three hundred. They loudly made their way up Peachtree Street through downtown Atlanta.

Again, not a cop in sight.

The marchers spilled into the street, blocking both of the two right lanes, forcing northbound traffic to stop. One of the marchers waved wild traffic directions from the rear.

Observers on the sidewalk and in cars held up cell phone cameras to record the merriment.

We had gone several blocks when I saw three police officers congregated on the sidewalk in the vicinity. I overheard one say there was a protest “or something” going on. She seemed surprised.

But as happens, an ambulance and then a few seconds later, a fire truck, needed to get through the traffic. With the narrow street congested with marchers the emergency vehicles had to stop and blare their horns. I could see frustration in the firemen’s faces in the stopped truck.

Suddenly, a motorcycle policeman sprang on the scene, zipping boldly between cars, blue lights flashing.

And just as quickly, three young men in orange “Cop Watch” t-shirts, who were walking on the opposite sidewalk, had video cameras zeroed in on this policeman heroically getting emergency vehicles past marchers and traffic.

The Cop Watchers continued to vigilantly hold up their cameras as we made our way to the homeless shelter, where a number of the homeless men held up signs saying, “Emory hates black men.”

The chants continued but it was to the choir of the homeless, so to speak, so the crowd soon crossed the street to the hospital. Still shouting and drumming, they rushed and blocked the hospital entrance.

A security guard’s orders to leave, as bewildered hospital visitors pulled up, did not seem to have much effect, nor did a single policeman’s orders. When about a dozen police officers showed up and notified the marchers that they were were on private property, the crowd slowly made its way across the street, drumming out a chant about private property being public property.

The police officers stood across the street from the crowd, and so did the Cop Watchers, holding video cameras in policemen’s faces.

It seemed that the chanting would be going on for some time, and one police officer had already mistaken me for a protestor, so I made my way back to Woodruff Park.

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