Atlanta, GA

Posted: November 13, 2011 by o22ndp in Area reports 2011

On Saturday night, October 15, MARTA transit police shot and killed 19-year-old Joetavius Stafford at the Vine City MARTA Station. Joetavius’ brother, who witnessed the shooting, said that the cop shot Joetavius in the back while he was running away with his arms up, and shot him again twice while he was laying on the ground shaking. The Fulton County Coroner’s autopsy report found two bullets wounds in Joetavius’ back, and one in his chest. This outrageous police murder charged the atmosphere in the city in the week leading up to October 22, and underscored the importance of building resistance to stop police brutality and murder. Family and friends held an emotional and angry vigil at the scene of the shooting on Monday night. Later that night, there was a defiant march through the downtown streets by Occupy Atlanta and others. On Tuesday, the October 22nd Coalition convened a press conference to decry this latest police murder and announce plans for the National Day of Protest. A section of the masses of people in the downtown area and MARTA riders listened to the speakers in the pouring rain, and all four television stations covered it on the evening news. Speakers included the October 22nd Coalition, FTP Movement, Revolution Books, Copwatch and International Socialist Organization. A message was read from former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and several people stepped up and spoke out on the spot.

October 22: “Hey, MARTA, you can’t hide, we charge you with homicide!” “Shot in the back, no excuse for that!” “No justice, no peace! Fuck the police!” These chants rang out as a little over 100 people, including Joetavius’ mother, father and several cousins, gathered at the main Five Points MARTA Station downtown for the October 22nd march and speak-out. The march took off and immediately headed one block up to Troy Davis Park (the site of Occupy Atlanta and renamed by Occupy Atlanta). Going through the park, the march grew to 175 as people from Occupy Atlanta and homeless people joined in.  The march looped back around and passed by the MARTA station again where many enthusiastic Black youth joined the demonstration on the spot.  At this point the demonstrators had taken over the street, and there was outrage and defiance and a feeling of freedom that unleashed excitement among people who are under the gun and harassed by the police every day, taking to the streets and being able to shout out what they really felt about the police.

Some people brought hand-made signs, many held up pictures of Joetavius that were distributed by the march organizers, others carried enlargements of the centerfold poster from Revolution with the pictures of people killed by police from around the country. Dozens of copies of Revolution were sold.

The plan was to march to the Atlanta City Detention Center for a speak-out. But along the way, the marchers diverted from the route for a brief stop in front of the Fulton County Courthouse, to demand that the Fulton County DA charge the MARTA cop who killed Joetavius with murder. When this was announced over the bullhorn the crowd erupted in cheers and as the marchers left the courthouse steps, a banner that had been signed by many people downtown earlier in the day was seen taped across the main entrance doors of the building that read “Justice for Joe! Jail the Killer Cop!”

At the jail, a people’s speak-out was held, with many people coming to the mic to speak about their experiences with police brutality. Several had loved ones who were killed by police. Nicholas Heyward from the October 22nd Coalition and Parents Against Police Brutality in New York spoke movingly about his son who was killed by the NYPD 17 years ago, and the need to build ongoing resistance, not just on this day. A cousin of Joetavius said she was speaking out so that Joe did not die in vain, and so that other families would not have to go through the same loss in the future. Other people spoke about the unjust execution of Troy Davis, the history of the oppression of Black people in this country, the attacks coming down on immigrants, the heroic hunger strike by California prisoners, the civil disobedience in Harlem to stop “stop and frisk,” the need for people to join the movement for revolution, and more. Revolution was in the air—every time the word was mentioned there were cheers among the crowd, even though people have many different views of what that means.

During the speak-out, an announcement was made from Occupy Atlanta that the mayor was threatening to evict the occupiers from the park that night and a large police presence was building on the edge of the park. When the speak-out ended, the crowd took to the streets again for a march back to Troy Davis Park to support Occupy Atlanta. When the march reached the park, people formed up on the side of the park where the police were gathered, stretching out between the police and the park. Another riled and emotional speak-out was held, with some people addressing their anger directly at the police through the bullhorns.  Later that evening, the mayor announced that he was not going to move on the occupation and reverted back to his previous deadline of November 7.

A rare and powerful mix was brought together in the streets of Atlanta on October 22. Various streams of resistance came together in the streets, and revolution was in the air. People could sense that this mix and this atmosphere have great potential to change everything.

At one point during the march, someone who was straggling a bit behind and trying to find where the marchers were, was told by a bystander on the street, “Hurry up, you need to catch up with the revolution.”

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