Atlanta Police Try and Shut Down #GunsDownWaterGunsUp But Movement Spreading

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A self-organized movement dubbed, #GunsDownWaterGunsUp has spread to several cities in Georgia and over the next week is poised to branch out into other states. On social media, various organizers stated that the goal is to bring people together in public spaces and put a stop to gun related violence while also having fun; specifically while using water guns. The events are attracting youth as well as adults and are bringing people together across various neighborhoods and local towns.

In the last few days, the movement has been pushed into the spotlight after heavily armed police in Atlanta, Georgia, were filmed attempting to break up a #GunsDownWaterGunsUp celebration this past Saturday, which drew over 500 people, according to local news. In one viral video, a white police officer wearing tactical gear and heavily armed can be seen lunging at one of the participants before getting soaked and then waking to his car. In response to the attempted police clamp down, youth and community members doused the police in “gallons” of water, according to police. Officers were seen on various videos literally running to their cars, while community members were seen jumping on police vehicles, blocking streets, and chanting, “FUCK 12.”

Predictably the police and much of the media is framing the Atlanta event in such a way as to drum up fear of black people coming together in large numbers. As NBC Miami wrote:

Police were called to assist with traffic and crowd control after more than 500 people responded to the event in the Atlanta-area neighborhood.

“While we appreciate such efforts, acts such as tying up traffic, damaging property and assaulting police officers and first responders are not acceptable,” said Atlanta police in a statement.

Officials say Saturday’s event quickly grew beyond entertainment and became a safety hazard, and that they must take necessary steps to ensure the safety of both residents and officers.

In one local news interview, police stated that the event originally was supposed to bring out only 75 people, but ended up bringing together over 500, which for some reason, pushed the police to try and shut the event down. Police also claim that people began throwing rocks at police and stopped a firetruck from coming into the area to treat someone having a medical emergency. As the Deputy Chief stated in a local media interview:

“…It starts out as fun, then it turns into recklessness, then it gets dangerous. Crowds grew to unmanageable levels, we brought officers in to try to clear streets, unfortunately the streets around the park were blocked by vehicles and pedestrians, so we were forced to shut it down. We don’t train for water fights, that is an unintended consequence of trying to bring that type of event under control, again they showed tremendous restraint.”

Despite comments from the police which are then repeated without question in the media, it remains unclear as to how the event itself was dangerous and besides the blocking of streets due to large amounts of people, what laws were actually being broken. Just last week, police responded to another water related event in Winder, Georgia, where they say teens were playing with water balloons and celebrating the end of the school year. Supposedly responding to complaints of youth throwing balloons at passing cars:

…two officers responded to the Glenwood Terrace Apartments, part of Georgia Housing Authority, where they encountered a crowd of about 100 people. 

When the patrol car arrived, people started throwing water balloons at it, police said. The crowd was warned to settle down, but several got unruly and created a circle around the officers as they started questioning people.

“Well, we were just throwing water balloons and playing with water and the police came. They told us to stop playing with water,” said Quama Billings, who witnessed the incident, including water balloons being tossed at the police car. He denied that any of the children were throwing water balloons at passing vehicles. “We had wet the police, (a female police officer) got mad, then more police came.”

A 16-year-old was taken down to the ground, which caused the crowd to yell and curse at police, Cooper said. The officer drew his Taser to warn the crowd to settle down. The other officer saw someone running up to them and tased them. That person turned out to be a 14-year-old, police said. The two juveniles were detained and later released to family.

Police claim their push to shut down these events are only in response to complaints they receive, but in all actuality, the fact that black people from different neighborhoods and towns are coming together in large groups is much likelier the reason they are trying to break these gatherings up. As It’s Going Down recently wrote in Police and Thieves: Insurgency, Control, Crime, in recent history, the police have often attacked attempts at communities coming together to stop inter-community violence, such as the police response to the historic gang truce in Los Angeles in 1992.

Regardless of the police clampdown, the movement is spreading to different cities across the country. In Columbus, GA:

15-year-old Maranette Graham says she loves seeing the number of people joining in on the Columbus water gun war.

“I’m here to support that because I’m tired of people dying and all of that and it’s sad to watch it because my friend, her mom just died because of her dad,” Graham said.

A local rapper helped organize the water gun war in Columbus after seeing an Atlanta rapper’s successful efforts with the idea.

“I honestly didn’t think it was going to get anywhere near this big, anywhere near this big. It’s outstanding. I like what the city is doing right now,” said Columbus rapper, Risktaker Red.

#GunsDownWaterGunsUp is also only one of several initiatives organized by community members to stop inner-community gun violence. Other examples include the recent gang truce in Los Angeles in the wake of the murder of hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle as well as community paintball events, boxing, and motor sports. In the coming days, more #GunsDownWaterGunsUp events across Georgia and beyond are also being planned. Here are just a few that can be found on social media.


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