Occupy Atlanta protests continue
ATLANTA — Atlanta police were poised to shut down the Occupy Atlanta demonstrations in Woodruff Park Monday night, but appeared to rethink the decision allowing protestors to remain for yet another night.
Police stationed several dozen officers two blocks from the park, which has been the epicenter of a grassroots protest against Wall Street and the country’s banking system.
But, just after midnight, a representative from the Mayor’s Office said they would give protestors an opportunity to disperse peacefully.
The gatherings have drawn criticism from some, including U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who called them “mobs.” While most of the protests have been peaceful, some have been marred by scuffles with police.
The rallies have also drawn praise from experienced organizers including union leaders and long-time activists. Despite a snub over the weekend, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has said “their activism is inspiring.”
President Barack Obama has said the demonstrators are giving a voice to those frustrated with the financial system.
Speaking at a White House news conference last Thursday, the president also defended the country’s financial sector, which appears to have taken the brunt of protester criticism, focusing on Wall Street and its regulators’ purported role in widening economic disparities.
“We have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in, comparing the protesters to the origins of the tea party, a grassroots political movement that has advocated reductions in government spending and efforts to curb corruption.
“What is the core of that protest? And why is it increasing in terms of the people it’s attracting?” Biden asked rhetorically. “The core is the bargain has been breached with the American people.”
“There’s a lot in common with the tea party,” he added.
The two movements have drawn commentary from liberal and radical conservatives, who in both cases have said there is something fundamentally wrong with America’s financial and political systems.
“Occupy Wall Street is saying, ‘We will not take it anymore,'” Rep. Lewis said in a statement Friday. “They are saying we must not forget about those in need, about those who work for starvation wages, those who bear their burden in the heat of the day and in the darkness of the night. These people are important too, and they make a massive contribution to our society. Their voices must be heard.”
“We hope that our message continues to resonate with everyone who has felt disenfranchised by the current state of our country,” said Tyler Combelic, a spokesman for the Occupy Wall Street group.
He said they plan to “continue the protest until the message reaches every house in the United States.”
The specifics of that message remain largely unclear.
(CNN contributed to this report.)
Occupy Atlanta joins Friday protest, brings movement south
By Bo Emerson
The Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, a movement that has spread from Lower Manhattan to at least 21 cities around the U.S., reaches Atlanta on Friday night during a loosely organized meeting at Woodruff Park downtown.
Calling itself Occupy Atlanta, the local organization will hold an assembly at the park, though an organizer says not to expect bullhorns or chanted slogans. The meeting, said Tim Franzen, is intended to seek a consensus among local members about future plans for social action.
Members of the local group are piggybacking their get-together onto another protest at the park planned by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition to mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.
That all-day “Peace Camp” will begin at 8 a.m. Friday morning and will include speakers, workshops and musical performances. A collection of anti-war and faith-based organizations will be represented, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Partnership, the Georgia chapter of Women’s Action for New Directions and Iraq Veterans Against the War, according to coordinator Kevin Moran.
Franzen said the Occupy Atlanta representatives plan to hold their assembly at the end of the day, as the planned events are winding down. But while Occupy Atlanta and the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition share goals, the two groups apparently haven’t shared their planning calendars. “These are not coordinated events,” said Moran. “They are not hooked up with us.”
The peace coalition’s goal is to draw attention to the economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Moran. Occupy Atlanta has broader concerns, said Franzen, including opposition to education budget cuts, support of universal health care and outrage over the execution of Troy Davis. “This movement is about reclaiming America from the corporations that have control of the government,” said Franzen.