Atlanta protests expose political generation gap

Atlanta Protest march (Photo Credit: Steed Media)

Atlanta is searching for a solution to widespread protests in the city. Recently, Mayor Kasim Reed met with protest leaders in an attempt to open discussion and find a solution to the protests in the city. It’s a true political victory for both sides as a Black mayor of a major U.S. city engages protesters in what is hoped will be substantive adjustments and adaptations in the city. However, if Mayor Reed’s chief goal is to end the protests, he has already lost.

The established model of response for righteous indignation is nonviolent protest. Direct action is the only way to confront a direct problem. Some say it’s not what Dr. King would have done. That opinion is inherently false and dubious because Dr.King clearly stated his response in matters of injustice. In an excerpt from King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail he wrote: “You may well ask: ‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Rev. Dr. Andrew Young and U.S. Congressman John Lewis
Rev. Dr. Andrew Young and U.S. Congressman John Lewis

The question is who should the Black community allow to negotiate for us? In addition, what are they going to be negotiating for in the Black community. The members of the old guard of the Civil Rights Movement have recently made statements that show a shocking gap in understanding the Black youth and community of today. Congressman John Lewis tweeted, “I was beaten bloody by police officers. But I never hated them. I said, ‘Thank you for your service.’ ” The comment was made in reaction to the nationwide mobilization of protests in major cities against police violence. Another major figure from the Civil Rights Movement, former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young  also made a comment regarding protests taking place in the city of Atlanta. He was asked by Atlanta Chief of Police Turner to pray for his officers and offer a pep talk at a tense time in the city. There have been six nights of continuous nonviolent protests in the city including the blocking of major intersections. Atlanta police officers are reportedly working 12-hour shifts to maintain calm and order as the nonviolent protests continue. Young stated to the officers, “Those are some unlovable little brats out there some times. … Don’t let anybody get you upset.”

The comments resulted in widespread derision not only by protesters, but also by the Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson. The organization released a terse response to Young that states in part: “The extraordinary résumé of the 84-year-old Young — lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., congressman, U.N. ambassador, two-term Atlanta mayor, businessman — affords him the opportunity to speak out where and when he pleases. But his meeting with Atlanta police officers did not sit well with some who usually count themselves as admirers.  While not discounting Andrew Young’s historical contributions to this nation’s progress, Mr. Young cannot cloak himself with the memory of Dr. King and expect that serious students of the civil rights movement will not call foul on his statements denigrating legitimate protest only to appease his establishment and corporate friends.”

Not surprisingly, Young has recently apologized for his comments that offended protesters and said in a recent interview with media “I apologize if I got overemotional.” He further stated that his own granddaughter expressed displeasure with his comments about the Atlanta protesters.

The protests in Atlanta are not just a reaction to local policing but to national issues that affect the Black community, As such, these protests will never end as long as policing remains unjust. Justice reigns when people who are treated unfairly are treated fairly and when people who are treated unjustly are treated justly.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.

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