ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – Dozens of “Occupy Atlanta” protesters were arrested early Wednesday morning after Mayor Kasim Reed ordered a raid to evict them.
Fifty-three people were taken into custody in Woodruff Park, nearly a day after the mayor revoked an executive clause that had allowed the protesters to camp overnight, citing safety and financial concerns.
Telling WGCL-TV that the situation could not be resolved by talking, Reed sent SWAT teams in riot gear and dozens of officers around 12:45 a.m to Woodruff Park. The park was cleared about 45 minutes later at 1:30 a.m.
Reed pinned the need for the raid on serious security concerns, which were raised when he saw a man walking around the park on Tuesday with an AK-47. Reed said he wasn’t sure as to whether the gun was loaded.
“They escalated the events to the point where they were no longer consistent with our city’s values related to civil disobedience,” Reed told WGCL. His comments alluded to his sentiments from earlier in the week, saying the group was on a “path to escalation.”
Officials at “Occupy Atlanta” were surprised that Reed would move to such an extreme measure, considering the two sides had scheduled to meet Thursday.
“The evidence shows that despite the fact that Mayor Reed claimed that he was sending clergy to speak with Occupy Atlanta in order to find a ‘peaceful solution,’ the outcome was already predetermined,” the group said in a statement.
Those arrested included State Sen. Vincent Fort, who described the raid as “overkill.” On Tuesday, Fort expressed his disappointment to CBS Atlanta about Reed’s stance, calling the mayor’s views “unfortunate and wrong,” likening him to Bull Connor, the infamous commissioner of public safety for Birmingham, Ala., during the civil rights movement. Phone calls made by CBS Atlanta to Fort were not immediately returned Wednesday morning.
The 53 arrests came shortly after Reed suggested to protesters to stop gathering, citing the additional resources and overtime pay to police to secure safety. He reiterated his position Tuesday, saying the movement has cost the city about $300,000. Reed also remained upset about a concert that took place over the weekend in the park in correlation to the protesters, calling it irresponsible.
As protesters were hauled to the Atlanta City Detention Center, hundreds of people stood on Peachtree Street, yelling and booing at police.
The protesters were expected to go before a judge this morning. Calls and emails made by CBS Atlanta to the mayor’s office were not immediately returned. Additional information requested by CBS Atlanta to the Atlanta Department of Corrections concerning the status of those arrested has not been made available.
But the arrests shouldn’t slow down the protests. The movement had planned to march from the jail where the protesters are being held back to Woodruff Park earlier this morning. The group has also planned an anti-war march this evening.
“We heard the mayor, but just because we heard the mayor doesn’t mean we believe the mayor,” the Rev. Darrell D. Elligan said as part of the statement.
WAOK’S Derrick Boazman host of “Too Much Truth” was there for the arrests. Make sure you listen today from 4pm to 7 pm for a first hand report on what happened on News and Talk 1380 WAOK