Atlanta police arrest racial justice activists for “obstructing traffic” after Trump fans wreak havoc across nationA screenshot from a video of the arrests. (Credit: Atlanta Justice Alliance)
By Sean Keenan
Just hours after a violent mob of pro-Trump activists stormed the nation’s capitol, and after a pro-Trump militia’s presence forced Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to evacuate the downtown Atlanta statehouse, Atlanta police arrested nearly two dozen racial justice activists for demonstrating on city streets.
A group of roughly 30 activists had rallied in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday evening to demand justice for Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was partially paralyzed after a white police officer shot him seven times in Kenosha, Wis., in August. On Tuesday, a Wisconsin prosecutor declined to file charges against the officer who shot Blake in the back, determining the officer might somehow have been acting in self-defense.
As the Atlanta protesters roved around the downtown area, one of them reportedly hurled a rock at a police cruiser, prompting an APD lieutenant to tell officers that “all members of the group need to go to jail,” according to arrest records. Aside from the person who allegedly threw the rock, almost everyone else was locked up for “obstructing traffic,” police documents say, even though demonstrators had made their way to the sidewalk after police told them to disperse.
A video of the clash appears to show law enforcement forcing activists down on the ground prompting them to shout things like, “What am I being arrested for?” and “You told us to disperse; so let us disperse.” Multiple arrestees were hospitalized, police records indicate. Some officers claimed in reports that “the group was violent,” although no evidence to support that assessment — aside, perhaps, from the lone rock thrown — is immediately available, and APD officials have not responded to questions about what caused officers to think the assembly was anything but peaceful, albeit slightly rambunctious.
One arrest report suggests an individual “attempted to interfere with officers” while they were putting someone else in custody, and another says a person attempted to “passively resist” arrest. However, only a portion of the arrest reports were readily available at press time, and police officials have not responded to multiple requests for clarification of the incident.
The barrage of arrests illustrates a stark contrast to the treatment law enforcement in Atlanta and Washington D.C. afforded Trump fans as they rioted and intimidated public officials at government buildings around the country. In Atlanta, none of the pro-Trump activists were arrested — or even confronted — by Georgia’s Capitol Police. And in Washington, where Trump supporters infiltrated the Capitol injuring dozens of law enforcement officers and killing one, just 68 rioters were jailed Wednesday.
Additionally, this past summer, when the nation was reeling over the shooting deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and others, Atlanta police were arresting hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists, as well as deploying tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray on a number of occasions.
Civil rights advocacy group the Southern Center for Human Rights defended the Atlanta activists in a statement. “When communities protest against anti-Black violence, they are met with police brutality,” the group said. “But when white insurrectionists hijack the United States Capitol and demand the overturning of a valid election, they are met with police patience. There can be no mistaking who and what it is that policing as an institution serves and protects: whiteness.” The organization is also calling on Atlanta police to drop the protesters’ charges, according to WSB-TV.
An activist whose arrest was captured in the above video said in another clip posted online, “We all went to jail for simply voicing that Black lives matter. That’s it. No damage. No anything.” The man, whose face was obscured by a white bandana in both recordings, urged supporters to call Atlanta City Council members and ask them to push for police reform. “Let them know that you do not want your tax money spent on arresting peaceful protesters,” he said.
This story will be updated as APD officials provide more information and documents.
(Header image, via Atlanta Justice Alliance: A screenshot from a video of the arrests.)