Police arrest Occupy Atlanta protesters

Atlanta police officers arrest an Occupy Atlanta protester

Early Wednesday morning, the Atlanta Police Department, acting on orders from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, arrested 53 Occupy Atlanta protesters who defiantly remained in the city’s Woodruff Park beyond an 11 p.m. curfew.

During an early morning press conference, Reed said that the city was forced to take action against the protesters after Occupy Atlanta organizers attempted to host a free hip-hop concert in Woodruff Park over the weekend without a proper security plan.

When Reed announced Oct. 24 a reversal of his earlier order allowing protesters to remain in Woodruff Park beyond the 11 p.m. curfew for the city’s parks, activists accused the mayor of misrepresenting the reasons for booting the protesters.

Reed said at a press conference early Wednesday morning the city had spent more than $300,000 in dealing with the Occupy Atlanta protesters. Between 100 and 150 officers were involved in the early morning operation, Reed said.

Reed and Atlanta Police Chief George Turner thanked the APD for conducting the operation without incident. There were no reports of injury.

The mayor’s office released a statement earlier today:

“For more than two weeks, the City of Atlanta, downtown residents and business owners have shown tolerance and patience for the members of Occupy Atlanta,” Reed said. “The protesters, however, moved from conducting an initially peaceful demonstration to increasingly aggressive actions. These actions led to my decision today to revoke the Executive Order. I would like to commend the Atlanta Police Department on executing an operation that resulted in no incidents.”

Organizers for Occupy Atlanta vowed to return to the park today, though no indication was given if the group planned to remain in the park beyond the city’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Atlanta police have closed the park and warned that anyone who enters, including media, risks arrest.

In a press conference late Monday afternoon, Reed announced his decision to revoke his previous executive order that would have allowed the protesters to remain camped in Woodruff Park through Nov. 7. At the time, Reed was flanked by a large group of clergy members he said he had asked to meet with the Occupy Atlanta leaders to negotiate a withdrawal of the park.

Reed and Occupy Atlanta leaders now disagree on whether the clergy were actually given a good faith opportunity to meet.

According to the mayor:

Mayor Reed on Monday met with more than two dozen faith-based leaders for more than an hour in his office and asked for their assistance in trying to negotiate with members of Occupy Atlanta.  On Tuesday, Occupy Atlanta leaders rebuffed the attempts of several leading clergy members to engage in a civil and productive dialogue about the protest. Instead, group members shouted down the clergy members on Tuesday and refused to formally meet until Thursday.

But Occupy Atlanta leaders say a small group of clergy came to the park Tuesday, saying they wanted to meet at 5 p.m. — the time Occupy Atlanta had already publicly announced for a march to the Georgia Pacific building.

The evidence shows that despite the fact that Mayor Reed claimed that he was sending clergy to speak with Occupy Atlanta in order to find a “peaceful solution,” the outcome was already predetermined. Representatives from the group of clergy arrived at the park and requested a meeting for 5 pm. That time was not available because of a planned march which was posted in the schedule on Occupy Atlanta’s website. Participants in Occupy Atlanta and the representatives of the group of clergy agreed on a meeting time of Thursday at noon at Big Bethel AME Church. However, Atlanta police did not wait for this meeting to take place.

We reiterate that the mayor has misrepresented our peaceful protest. There was no violence on Saturday as he claimed. The Hip Hop Day festival promoters had a permit which was pulled by the city at the last minute. The mayor has misrepresented both Occupy Atlanta and the facts at every possible turn. Nor did he appear to have the full confidence of the clergy sent to negotiate with us; Rev. Darrell D. Elligan commented “We heard the mayor, but just because we heard the mayor doesn’t mean we believe the mayor.”

For comprehensive coverage of last night’s arrests, please visit www.twitter.com/thegavoice and for more information on this story, check back at www.thegavoice.com.


Top photo: An unidentified Occupy Atlanta protester is arrested at Woodruff Park in the early morning hours of Oct. 26. (by Ryan Watkins)