The city of Atlanta saw very few disruptions following the grand jury verdict in Ferguson, Mo that sparked nationwide protesters under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter. In fact, the image above is the biggest disruption I could find on line. Maybe a dozen people blocked I-75 for a little while. No fires, no looting and no significant protests.
Despite the lack of fervor locally around the original movement, #BlackBrunchATL has appeared in eateries in and around the city for the second time in several weeks. For those not aware of this campaign, it is where protesters enter an eating establishment somewhere between the hours of 10AM and 2PM, assemble, and begin reading the names of blacks killed during confrontations with police officers. It has played out in New York, San Francisco and other large metros throughout the country because apparently eating a big mid-morning meal out on a Sunday morning with friends and family creates what protesters call a “white space” (Isn’t that kind of racist?)
The protesters only photograph white customers, interpret their irritation or lack of attention as being “uncomfortable” and whine on twitter about the management staff of the establishment trying to intimidate them. The Atlanta version played out in a weak whimper on social media for the second time and I decided to take a harder look. The first thing I noticed is that Avery, a Morehouse College student who appears to be at the forefront of these protests locally, is taking his cues from a familiar Ferguson protest leader named Deray McKesson (@deray)
— Avery. (@Philosavery) March 29, 2015
Deray McKesson is a former Senior Director of Human Capital for Minneapolis Public Schools who relocated permanently to St. Louis after the death of Michael Brown with apparently no other job than stoking the fires of racial division nationwide. I often say there is no profit in peace and Mr. McKesson’s abrupt career change along with others who have come to it full time tells me there must be some money in the movement. My suggestion for Mr. McKesson is to focus on Ferguson, you know, the town that got destroyed by a false #HandsUpDontShoot meme. Use your skills to organize people around building it back up to be a town where businesses might like to settle and reopen, improving life there for everyone.
The next tweet is typical of the #BlackBrunch protests. Being what I interpret among some diners as being generally annoyed at being interrupted is characterized as uncomfortable. If I were sitting down to a meal out and people of any race came in shouting about anything I’d get up and leave.
— Amour Carthy, Ed.M. (@amourcarthy) March 29, 2015
And how dare you remove your children from something they may be too young to understand? The nerve of you when all you wanted was breakfast! Sorry Ms. Blaze, if it’s my child, I will decide when they are old enough to understand such complexities and please, focus on your home state of Texas.
Nobody was yelling at them individually. They were protesting. Tell your kids they are protesting & why & maybe they wouldn't be scared
— black lives matter! (@BriBlaze) March 29, 2015
Even owners and managers are not allowed to ask protesters to leave private establishments without somehow being portrayed as trying to intimidate them. Personally, I see nothing intimidating about this manager’s behavior.
— Avery. (@Philosavery) March 29, 2015
Mostly what I noticed from the social media commentary, was that very few of those commenting were actually from Atlanta. Accounts that responded to my comments were from as far away as California and New York, but were somehow all intimately familiar with Atlanta politics. Or maybe not so much. So I decided to be helpful.
First, lets look at the political players in the City of Atlanta. At the top is Mayor Kasim Reed. He has been the mayor of Atlanta since 2010. Prior to that he served in the Georgia Legislature for 11 years. His civic leadership has gained national recognition.
Reed was preceded by Shirley Clarke Franklin who began her term in 2002. She was the first female mayor in Atlanta and the first black female mayor in any Southern city.
The Atlanta City Council is made up of a wonderfully diverse group of sixteen representatives. You can learn more about the individual members here.
Most of the names read during #BlackBrunch events nationwide are black men killed by law enforcement. Meet Atlanta’s Police Chief, George Turner who has held to position since 2010. Under his leadership by 2013, Atlanta boasted its lowest felony rate since 1969.
Here is the graduating class for 2013 from the Atlanta Police Academy. Members of the department participate in several community policing programs including neighborhood watch and crime prevention programs as well as youth mentoring and athletics programs.
The message of this photographic review should be pretty clear. If there is a city where a productive conversations about improved policing and relations with the black community should be able to occur, it is Atlanta. We don’t need bored college students disrupting local businesses to make a point at the behest of nation wide organizations and professional protesters just because we are a large metropolitan area.
Atlanta is a vibrant, diverse, metropolitan community with several universities, including two nationally recognized historically black colleges, Spellman and Morehouse. Instead of following a destructive nationwide trend, Atlanta should be leading the nation in innovative and creative solutions to solve the problems that are the root causes of any unrest. (What unrest, I might ask given the small scope of protests following the Ferguson grand jury verdict?)
This is not 1956, and no one who wants to dine in any restaurant will be turned away. Unfortunately, these protesters fancy themselves in the same struggle their grandparents were in.
— Educated_Ratchet (@Ashlei_V) March 29, 2015
Kids you are not Dr. King, Selma was 50 years ago and calling out names in restaurant will only invite the fine residents of Atlanta to start developing their own lists of names. Blacks killed by other blacks, whites killed by blacks, whites killed by cops of any color. Don’t make it a contest. All the lists are too long and it doesn’t solve anything.