Toward Sustainable Habits and Durable Prosperity
In addition to Facebook communications within the movement, local news were also announcing that Occupy Atlanta was planning on reoccupying Woodruff/Troy Davis Park on November 5th, Saturday night. Many came with their tents late in the evening but fifteen minutes before the 11 PM deadline to evacuate the park, protesters were being told that they were going to lose their tents after the police moves in. Many were seen packing and the park was quickly becoming empty of tents again. At that time, the plan was to count on a few people to sit in the middle of the park waiting to be arrested while they were simply exercising their freedom of speech. The west side of the park had two rows of fences and the east side was blocked by a group of police officers about to raid the park. The reoccupation was on the verge of becoming a much smaller event than anticipated with very little resistence to the police, or so it seemed.
At 11 PM, a large group of people picked up a very long banner and moved out of the park through the north side. They were chanting words of solidarity and displayed no hostility as if they were part of a parade. A couple of minutes later, another group picked up protest signs and flags to be displayed in “distress”. They moved out through the south side with a much more threatening energy. Instead of capitulating, Occupy Atlanta was effectively relinquishing the park to take the street!
November 5th, 11 PM, was a scheduled confrontation between protesters and the police. In the mind of each party, the level of violence if any, would be determined by their principles on the appropriate response to the behavior of the other side. Hours of intense tension followed. While activists were moving the “occupation” to the street, the police started their show of force with a surprisingly high number of motorcycles with extremely loud sirens. They went around the park, forcing the protesters on the street to move out of their way until some of them moved back to the middle of the street and trapped a motorcyclist. [Section removed due to pending court case]. The tension became very high between demonstrators and the police. The next phase in the show of force was the arrival of mounted police and riot squads.
Arrests were handled by policemen in regular uniforms. Their first arrests were surprise moves targeting the most daring protesters. Then, for the remaining arrests, they marched in formation towards the protesters until they pushed them to the side of the street and conquered the middle of the street with the protection of the riot squad.
As both sides were making sure not to become responsible for an escalation of violence, arrests became rare after the 40 minutes and many prison buses returned empty. During the three hours or so during which the police and protesters challenged each other to exploit the other’s mistakes, a cat-and-mouse language seemed to have developed between them. At the end of the night, no one had won the confrontation. Occupy Atlanta showed it’s resolve to fight for change and the Atlanta Police avoided the kind of brutality seen elsewhere but despite a calm ending to the situation, twenty people were in jail and among them, two had received injuries from excessive police force.