Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice advocates for a review of police policies
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – The Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice gathered for another protest on Saturday, Aug. 8. About 40 people held signs at the intersection of North Avondale Road and Clarendon Ave. from 10 a.m. to noon to urge the City Commission to hire a third-party consultant to review police policies.
The City Commission previously agreed to hire a consultant. Galatioto-Ruff and another organizer, Lisa Cottrell, said they want to make sure the consultant has the right experience for reviewing police departments and advocating for people of color.
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“That’s our immediate ask right now is to get a consultant hired that has experience in anti-racist policies, who is familiar with the systemic racism that we often see in policing and in governance,” said Sarah Galatioto-Ruff, an organizer for AARJ.
Members of IATSE Local 600, a cinematographers guild, also showed their support for Black Lives Matter holding signs and one person wore a mask that said “Vote.”
“We’re out here because we believe in service, being of service, giving back to our communities and investing in the communities that we live in,” IATSE Local 600 member Ian Campbell said. “Since we exist here in the South what we believe in is racial equality, specifically being anti-racist. We have to make proactive changes to be able to undo this very ingrained system that we all exist and suffer in.”
Jessie Carr of ATL Signs of Change and her husband also attended the protest to show their support and sell their Black Lives Matter signs.
“I work in Avondale,” said Carr, a counselor at DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts. “The study they did about the disproportionality of police encounters and ticketing within Avondale Estates meant that those are my students and my families. Families that we care about. We want to make sure they know that they’re welcome in the community where their children attend school.”
The AARJ is currently conducting a survey about traffic citations and analyzing police records of traffic citations.
“While the (Black, Indigenous and people of color) BIPOC population of Avondale Estates is currently estimated at 15%, 80% of the city’s citations are disproportionately issued to BIPOC (75% Black). In fact, only 3% of our citations were issued to Avondale Estates residents at all. Avondale Estates is 85% white,” Cottrell said in an email.
Cottrell added in her email that 70% of the citations were given along North Avondale Road.
“Citations issued by police currently fund 15% of the city’s budget, around $600,000, a burden which is being placed squarely on the backs of our Black neighbors,” Cottrell said in an email.
At the protest, Cottrell mentioned that there have been complaints about perceived over-policing as parents are being pulled over while taking their children to Avondale Elementary School, which is located off of North Avondale Road.
Most students at Avondale Elementary School are not residents of the city and 97% are minority students with most being Black, Cottrell said in her email.
Carr mentioned that DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts parents also take North Avondale Road to get to the school.
“Just seeing the numbers, it was close to 80% but the population of Avondale is 80% white. That just doesn’t add up,” she said.
“They’re supposed to provide public safety, but it seems like when you’re just enforcing it for certain people that you’re targeting that group of people,” Carr added.
Additionally, ATL Signs of Change has raised another $14,000 and donated to Lost-n-Found Youth, Helping Empower Youth and the Atlanta Solidarity Fund.
The Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice formed in early June as Galatioto-Ruff and Cottrell joined Carol Calvert in organizing a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The group has held a protest each month this summer.
“We’re going to keep protesting until we see some actionable change,” Galatioto-Ruff said.
The Avondale Alliance currently has about 200 members and has received about 750 signatures on a petition that demands the city implement the 21st Century Policing Guidelines.
“We thought we should be an alliance of people within and around Avondale working for racial justice and in support of the broader anti-racism movement,” Cottrell said in an email. “We are working to define what will help us be effective in supporting and improving Black lives, Black communities, and the lives of all people of color by dismantling racist beliefs, practices and organizations.”
Cottrell previously told Decaturish that 21st Century Policing helps police departments make sure officers have the right training and support they need.
In addition to protesting, the AARJ is providing educational opportunities like book studies and a racial healing workshop. The group is also partnering with members of the community to collect school supplies for Avondale Elementary School.
Avondale resident Connie Bryans said residents have done the school supply drive for about five years. This year, the community is working with the elementary school to put together packages of school supplies for students to take home, Bryans said.
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“We were thinking it would be more important this year since we’re having so many challenges to have a little perk like that and for the community to come together,” Bryans said.
The group is collecting various school supplies such as pencils, markers, paper, notebooks and binders. Supplies can be dropped off at a donation bin at Bryans’ home at 88 Lakeshore Drive or through an Amazon wishlist.
Here are additional photos from the Aug. 8 protest:
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