Mayor Kasim Reed has earned high praise for his handling of the ongoing protest marches. He’s been in the middle of the protestors. He’s stood beside them and his police force, simultaneously. He’s done his best to allow all sides to vent their frustrations, and ultimately let everyone go him safe with their messages delivered and public safety in tact. Let me echo the praise of others in how the Mayor has handled these past few very difficult days.
I heard the mayor speak at a press conference today, and he openly talked about his police officers (as well as others working with APD such as the Georgia State Patrol) who have had five nights of protecting our capital city while openly grieving for their fallen brothers in Dallas. It’s remarkable there have been few arrests and no violence locally to speak of thus far. That said, people are tired, and tensions remain high. That’s not a good combination.
The Mayor is particularly frustrated with the intentions of some protestors to get on and block Atlanta’s freeways. He has a lengthy message for them posted via Facebook, which we include after the jump:
Over the last couple of days, I’ve noticed a number of posts on social media comparing the desire of Atlanta protesters to take over our downtown interstates with that of Civil Rights demonstrators marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in March 1965.
This was an iconic moment in American history captured in stirring photographs which could only capture a fraction of the fear and pain marchers experienced that day.
Many view the march as a turning point in the movement for civil rights, and one key fact cannot be forgotten: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Willie Bolden, Ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis and the hundreds of brave individuals who marched that day planned for weeks, working round the clock to organize the event with a great emphasis on public safety – their own safety and the safety of local residents.
The photo that has been posted on social media captures the culmination of weeks of effort and communication with the communities and law enforcement in Selma.
As I said last week, Dr. King would never take a freeway in the dangerous fashion that demonstrators in Atlanta this weekend tried to block our downtown interstate. To say or imply that these two events are similar is a classic example of a lie getting around the world before the truth wakes up.
As a leader of a national movement, Dr. King never would have spontaneously run into, or walked onto, an active highway and put innocent motorists’ lives at risk without warning. When the SCLC and SNCC planned marches, the streets were closed in advance. They involved extensive communication with local elected officials and law-enforcement.
I have gotten this information over the years from men and women like Ambassador Andrew Young, Reverend Willie Bolden and Mrs. Juanita Abernathy. These individuals gave their lives to the Civil Rights Movement.
In the City of Atlanta over the last three days, more than 15,000 people exercised their First Amendment rights after a very tough week for our nation. These protests unfolded quickly and emotionally and at all times our law-enforcement personnel treated these individuals with respect. There were minimal arrests, minimal property damage and no loss of life resulting from the protests.
Everyone in their own way has honored Dr. King’s memory this weekend. But we have a long way to go as a city in the days and weeks ahead. We will make greater substantive progress when we turn to each other, rather than turn on each other. The problems which led to thousands speaking up and joining in civic engagement impact us all. Only by working together will we be able to solve them.