Hundreds March for a Athens Civil Rights Committee
Written By Deshonna Johnson
On Tuesday, October 4th, as citizens gathered to march for an Athens Civil Rights Committee there was a sense of fire in the air. Mokah Johnson activist and lead organizer of the “Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement” began the rally with an opening speech encouraging citizens to take action. There was passion in the hearts of those who stood with their signs tall, there was spark in the feet of everyone who marched from the Arch to City Hall. We Shall Overcome and Light of Mine filled the city’s ears as protesters crossed Washington and stood on the steps of City Hall singing.
“Ain’t no power like the power of the people cause the power of the people don’t stop,” shouted protesters.
There was magic in these moments, but the magic hadn’t begun until they entered the doors of city hall. Members of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, Athens for Everyone, UGA students and various people of the Athens community packed the city council meeting to hear much appreciated news.
“This may be of interest for some of you out there,” started Mayor Denson. “It is my intent to put the discrimination ordinance for alcohol back on next month’s agenda.”
Followed by cheers overpowering the halls, the presence of this force was known causing Mayor Denson to ask the guarding officer to close the door. Another council member suggested the group leave.
“Mayor, I suggest that if people in the hall are interrupting the meeting to where other citizens can’t say what they need to be heard that they be asked to step outside,” spoke one commissioner.
Complying while still refusing to be silenced, voice after voice spoke into the mic on the podium in front of Mayor Denson unafraid to share their experiences of racial discrimination and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. One voice include the perfect call to action.
“There is a lot of discrimination going on in Athens outside of bars,” said Broderick Flanagan. I, myself, have felt like I have been profiled. Recently, I’ve been pulled over three times in 35/40-day span, and only one time did I receive a citation…there’s a type of energy out there that treats African-Americans as criminals and it’s unacceptable. So, when this ordinance comes back up for a vote I hope the expansion includes restaurants, at least for now. In the future who knows, but also to form a Civil Rights Committee and Human Relations Council…I would love to see that happen. I hope that you guys can take your moral compasses out of your pocket and point it towards justice and equality. Thank you.”
Cathy Willard, former Atlanta City Council President, also spoke at the meeting providing her expertise in starting a Human Relations Commission in which Mayor Denson asked for the minutes of Willard’s previous committee meetings and outcomes of anti-discrimination ordinances.
Overall, the demonstration proved to be successful!