Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights holds protest, leads march from Decatur to OakhurstProtestors filled the Decatur Square during a peaceful demonstration sponsored by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights on June 7. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — On Sunday, June 7, a fourth Black Lives Matter demonstration was held in the Decatur Square. Organized by Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, the peaceful protest was filled with momentum and energy.
On June 8, one of the organizers said they estimated 5,000 people attended, based on drone footage of the event.
Before marching from Decatur through the residential streets of Oakhurst, the crowd heard from a multitude of speakers including singers, poets, athletes, students, victims of police brutality, mothers, and community organizers.
The speeches opened with a prayer in multiple faith traditions as well as a land recognition from Kaitlin Curtice, a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation.
“Today we gather on the land of the Muscogee (Creek) people,” Curtice said. “We honor their presence on this land. We honor their history, and we acknowledge their removal from this land at the hands of white supremacy and colonization. We honor those who have left and those who are still here. … We do not forget that white supremacy and colonization steal our lives and our cultures, and today I stand in solidarity with my Afro-Indigenous kin and my Black kin alongside so many other Indigenous peoples all over the world who are standing with you.”
The prayers included a libations ceremony from Tashiya M’kanga, a director of Decatur’s Kilombo Academic and Cultural Institute, a school that provides children with an African-centered education, and prayer led by Reverend Amantha Barbee of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church.
Daxton Pettus, Co-President of Decatur High School’s Black Student Union, spoke about the recent racist incidents at Decatur High School.
“As far as white supremacy, this is nothing new to Black students,” Pettus said. “Black students have experienced this type of racial injustice since elementary school. Some have spoken up about it and some haven’t, because they feel that their school will do nothing about it. Well, now we demand change. We demand change to the Code of Conduct, and we demand racial conversations. And if we don’t get change, we will take change. … I have a nephew, and I do not want him up here saying the same thing I’m saying today.”
Tony Jordan, a rising senior at Decatur High School, spoke on behalf of people with autism. “The video that surfaced on social media showing fellow students making racist threats against Black people is a violent crime and has upset me and my family. Racism in Decatur should not be tolerated. Justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery.”
Decatur High School student Nubia Issa also shared a spoken word piece.
Oakhurst resident, who we are referring to as Elliott because he has concerns about his safety, spoke about the experience he endured with two white lacrosse players.
“When the police came, my neighbor was told there would be no report written up even though he asked them to,” Elliott said. “He asked if their names would be recorded, he was told no, they didn’t want to mess up their future. … I felt silenced. The first week I moved into Oakhurst, I was biking around. I was greeted by a police officer who asked me if I stole my bike. It made me sad. I wondered if this was the right neighborhood for me. … Your movement has finally given me hope. Your movement has changed the world. Seeing the different colors of people involved in this movement around the globe has given me hope. … This movement and these peaceful protests must continue until change becomes reality.”
Brooke Pearson, a 2013 graduate of Decatur High School, said, “It breaks my heart to know that the same microaggressions, the injustices, and the racism that I faced as a Black student within this community are still happening today. So much so that I got on a flight yesterday from Los Angeles to be here with you today to fight for Black lives. We must demand an end to the war against Black people.”
Pearson encouraged demonstrators to view this article on the Decatur High School incident.
“That was a terroristic threat to the Black community,” Pearson said. “It is dangerous for this student to remain in the halls of Decatur High School.”
Jamie Beasley, a Clark Atlanta University student, called on demonstrators to participate in civic engagement like voting and serving as a juror in addition to protesting.
“I want [white people] to move past the feels, and put us in positions where we can speak for ourselves because we articulate ourselves very well,” Beasley said.
Wendell Carter Jr., a professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls who grew up in Atlanta, said, “It just gives me goosebumps to be able to look out and see everyone from a different race come out to march for one thing that our country can’t quite get right.”
Other speakers emphasized the importance of demands like passing a hate crime law in Georgia and removing the Confederate monument from Decatur Square.
One of the most impassioned pleas for justice came from Monteria Robinson, the mother of Jamarion Robinson who was killed in East Point in 2016. At least 14 officers of a Southeast Regional Fugitive Taskforce from at least seven different agencies, led by U.S. Marshals, forcibly entered the apartment of Robinson’s girlfriend and shot Jamarion Robinson 76 times. His family believes the police mistook him for someone else.
“Who was Jamarion Robinson?” said Monteria, holding a sign bearing her son’s photo. “Jamarion Robinson was a student-athlete at Tuskegee University at the time of his death. … Over 90 rounds were fired at my son. Flashbang grenades were thrown at him, landed on him, burning him. Someone walked up the stairs, stood over him, and shot down into his body two more times. Then, after that, he was handcuffed and dropped down a flight of stairs. Then they dropped his body inside her apartment, where he lay there for over eight hours with no medical aid rendered. Then, here they come with their false narrative. They show my mother, my brother, and my aunts and uncles a photo of the person they were looking for. It was not even my son. They took his photo from my brother and dropped that photo on the news that night and said, ‘East Point man had a shootout with police today.’ That’s the false narrative I’ve been fighting for the last four years.”
Robinson said there have been “over 130 killings of brown and Black men in the city of Atlanta since 2015.”
“One of those officers was also involved in the tasing of these college students here,” said Robinson. “He also killed someone in 1995 as well as in 2015. … He was the one who actually handcuffed my son and dropped him down the flight of stairs. Why is he still on the streets? Why is he still in our communities? Why?”
Jimmy Hill, the father of Jimmy Atchinson, a 21-year-old who was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer in January 2019, also spoke. He said that Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms allowed Officer Sung Kim, who killed Atchinson, to retire instead of firing him. “My son Jimmy wasn’t perfect, but my son Jimmy didn’t deserve to be shot down like a dog. … How can the Atlanta police continue to put these officers back on the street? This same officer, Sung Kim, interrupted a funeral procession, drawing weapons on people at the funeral.”
“Atlanta has a police brutality problem and it needs to be exposed,” Hill continued. “My son was killed twelve days before the Super Bowl, and Atlanta [police department] wanted it swept under the rug. But we refuse to let it be swept under the rug.”
Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, the students who were tased by Atlanta police officers while trying to drive home during a curfew, also spoke at the protest.
“We just want to express how grateful we are,” Young said. “However, this is not just about us. This is about shedding light on all the inequality that has occurred throughout the nation. Every brown and Black face, we must protect, and at this point, all that matters is change.”
Qri Montague, a radio personality, said she was assaulted and tased during a traffic stop in 2018. “At 10 o’clock at night, by myself on the side of the road, my phone was dead. He handcuffed me, held a taser to my face, and then he tased me. While I was in handcuffs. He turned off his bodycam, he deleted the evidence. There was no evidence but the bruises on my body. When I called to report it they didn’t even believe me because there was no record. … So imagine that. That’s what Black people have to go through every single day. It’s not just with police. It’s with the person who grabs their purse when we walk by. It’s with the white mom that won’t let her white child play with my Black little sister. It’s the white people that will not educate their family that Black people do matter. It’s the people that will not make Juneteenth a company holiday. And the people that constantly fail to see us as people. … We need our demands met.”
“What is our community if there are no more people in it?” asked Montague.
More speakers shared their feelings through spoken word pieces.
“I’m here to tell y’all something you’re not gonna hear on the media. I’m here to tell y’all something you’re not gonna hear at city hall. I’m here to tell y’all something you’re not gonna hear from the White House. I’m here to tell y’all: We are winning! Right here in this country there has been a fire lit that cannot be put out,” Eldredge Washington said. “This ain’t that ‘march one month and go home’ energy. This that ‘Montgomery 381 days’ energy. We’re about to give it to them.”
The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human rights then led a march from Decatur Square to Oakhurst through the residential streets, in collaboration with an organization called We Love Yawl Too Much. Residents clapped and waved from their porches.
“I was really content with the outcome and I think there was a good diverse crowd here today. I think the march was powerful and everyone here was here for a good cause,” demonstrator Sage Arnold said.
A Talley Elementary School student named Julia who led some of the chants said, “I really liked [the protest] because it’s needed and it’s important that we do it. I think it got the message out to other people on what we want and how we really feel.”
Here are some more photos from Sunday’s event:
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