by Gloria Tatum…………….
Atlanta, June 10, 2020 – The nationwide movement for change and justice encompasses many issues including mass incarceration. This is an issue that local activists have advocated for years with a demand to close the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC).
Over two hundred people gathered at City Hall, in the rain, to once again demand the closure of the ACDC. Several people spoke about their experience of being black in a racist police state and how mass incarceration was destroying Black lives.
The event was led by Women on the Rise and supported by a broad-based Campaign Alliance.
“Atlanta has a police and jail problem …..ACDC was built to hide poor Black people during the 1996 Olympics and has been used for that purpose ever since,” Marilynn Winn, Executive Director of Women on the Rise, said.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF ACDC
The Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) was opened in1996 to hide homeless people from visitors who came to Atlanta to see the Summer Olympic Games.
But it remains today because elected officials must think it is their job to pass dozens of ordinances to criminalize the poor, minorities, homeless, addicted and mentally ill people and jail them in the ACDC for petty ordinance a/k/a “quality of life” violations and traffic violations.
Mostly poor people are arrested for these “quality of life” violations like jaywalking, drinking in public, loitering, sitting on the grass, sleeping in public, disorderly conduct, panhandling, urban camping, entering vacant buildings, and spitting on sidewalks.
These petty violations put citizens in jail which can cause a person to lose their job or apartment and often come out of jail homeless. These violations kick a person who is down instead of lifting them up with resources, jobs, and opportunities.
Arresting people for social problems “doesn’t work and only makes a bad situation worse,” this is what formerly incarcerated people have been saying for decades, maybe centuries – but white power and privilege are not listening because the world they lived in is good.
When white supremacists began to see too many Brown people in town, more anti-immigrant legislation was passed and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) got busy arresting immigrants and housing them in ACDC for deportation.
The jail was divided into two sides – the “quality of life, broken window and traffic violations” side and the “immigrant and migrant” or “ICE” side.
Most of the people in ACDC are Black and on the ICE side, they are Brown.
In 2018, community organizers successfully pressured the city to end its contract with ICE. After that, less than 100 people were detained in ACDC which costs the city $32.5 million dollars a year to operate.
FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE & FRIENDS SPEAK OUT AT RALLY
“We are here today to demand the City defund the Atlanta Department of Corrections and ACDC,” Winn said to the crowd gathered in front of City Hall.
Winn wants the city to use the $18 million dollars in the proposed 2021 budget to be reallocated into black communities for healthcare, jobs, housing, and services for individuals who have been impacted by systems such as ACDC.
“We are here to inform the City Council and the Mayor’s office that the community is tired of waiting for them to do the right thing. Keep your promise to close ACDC by July 1, 2020,” Winn said
“I came down here from New York in 1999 and spent 15 years in the Georgia Department of Corrections [prison system]. So I have some personal experience with trauma,” Tariq Baiyina, a community organizer with Iman of Atlanta, said.
He talked about Black folks’ special relationship with the police. “We don’t see police as protectors, they don’t serve us. Police are here to protect white people from black people. Anytime white people see black people doing something they don’t like they call the police.” Baiyina said.
He is so right – for who could forget the video of “BBQ Becky” calling the police on a black family for barbecuing in a public park. Or a Starbucks employee calling the police on two black men who were arrested for sitting in Starbucks waiting for a friend before they ordered coffee.
“We are stuck in retributive justice, not restorative justice. Which is all about locking your black ass up instead of building up those communities and restoring them with quality education, healthcare, housing, and opportunities,” Baiyina explained.
“I pay taxes but I can’t be represented in government and I have a problem with that [taxation without representation]. There are over two hundred thousand people in Georgia on parole or probation that can’t vote. We need to change some laws around here,” Baiyina said
.Brother Haroun asks the crowd, “Y’all say you can’t find no jobs? The jobs are in prisons. I’ve been there – I know – working all day for two dollars an hour,” Haroun Shahid Wakil, founder of the Streetgroomers, said.
Wages paid to incarcerated people can range from 25 cents to $2.25 per hour, depending on which state you are incarcerated in, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
The Department of Justice says prison labor is good for a company’s bottom line. Many incarcerated people consider it “modern-day slavery” and prisons “modern-day plantations.”
“The big dog across the street [Governor Brian Kemp] thinks he calls the shots but it’s the people that call the shots. Keep on voting and keep on fighting because we ain’t going to be stopped,” Wakil said.
“Our children’s lives are senselessly taken,” Glory Kilanko, Women Watch Africa, said. Kilanko represents the voices of communities from 23 African countries. She worries that if their children obey the police, or run from the police and even if they are in handcuffs, “their lives are still taken.”
Woke folks know that it does not matter what Black people do or don’t do, the police may still kill you because they know that “qualified immunity” protects them from prosecution.
“We have requested ACDC to be repurposed as a wellness center, so we can begin the healing of our Black lives who have suffered mental and physical damage in the hands of law enforcement agents,” Kilanko said.
“We are here to stand in solidarity with our Black sisters and brothers. Black and Brown communities have died at the hands of police. We must remain strong in solidarity and defund the police, end mass incarceration, demolish ACDC, end the criminalization of [black and brown people], and abolish ICE,” Kevin Joachin, community organizer, with Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLARH), said.
MARCH TO ACDC
In a soaking rainstorm, about two hundred people marched from City Hall to the ACDC to continue their demand to close down the jail and let our people go.