Filed under: Editorials, Police, Southeast, White Supremacy
From All Out ATL
On Thursday and Friday of last week, thousands of young people gave life to a vortex of creativity and power in the face of the racist executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police. In Atlanta, we captured international headlines by breaking boundaries, overcoming obstacles, and seizing the initiative despite our fear. The power of those demonstrations is what we hoped to help curate last night, on July 10. Instead, we regret to say, nothing happened.
The intentions of All Out Atlanta have consistently been autonomous organization and the self-expression of participants, with real respect for the risks and initiatives taken by marginalized peoples. On Friday, when thousands of us ran through downtown, blocking the freeway multiple times, scuffling with police, saving each other from arrest, dancing, cheering, and moving together in multiple columns through the city and holding space for hours, it was the open-ended, experimental nature of the night that gave us our power.
Unfortunately, last night, activists who were in no way involved with organizing Sunday’s event arrived with megaphones and yellow vests. All Out Atlanta, who organized the event, did not ask these groups to attend, and specifically asked them not to manage or oversee the crowd, which is exactly what they did. While we don’t deny that some of them were probably sincere in their intentions, we condemn the opportunistic betrayal of the movement by a small cadre of self-appointed leaders.
— Kai Williams (@kaiwilliamss) July 9, 2016
The Atlanta Police Department sent three undercover cops into the crowd to film and surveil potential “agitators.” Later, Capitol Police used a Long Range Acoustic Device on the crowd. Finally, three arrests were made when less than 100 people remained of the march, which had earlier peaked at 700-800 people. In a world like this one, our condemnations of the police mean nothing without our ability to overcome their efforts. As more than one protester put it, “none of this means anything unless we really shut shit down.” On Sunday, sections of the crowd were determined to minimize and control the experimental possibility of the night, despite the apparent militancy of their words and ideas. For us, the real failure of the evening is that the police were not even necessary because the pacifying elements of the crowd (both black and white) were able to minimize autonomous self-expression before it ever emerged. They were able to do so more effectively than the police could ever have hoped to because many people trust them – for now.
Moving forward, it is clear that fear is the biggest obstacle the movement must overcome. The task of our movement is to curate circumstances that help us all to overcome these fears, and to transform them into our free, ungovernable power. This is not a question of violence or non-violence, legality or illegality, of small or large actions. It is only a question of combining all of the elements, both material and spiritual, that can produce the magical feeling of a night of limitless potential.
The demands we make of politicians, non-profit groups, police departments, and whoever else mean nothing. The demands we make of ourselves are everything. That said, we know that nothing is over and that the future is still up for grabs. If we give ourselves over to our own potential, if we are able to see uncertainty with excitement instead of fear, then we can do anything.