V103/WAOK News Reporter Erica Walker describes the scene as “peaceful, intense at times, especially when there was a moment of silence.” Erica, who spent hours at the protest at Underground Atlanta last evening says, they had four-minutes of silence every hour for four hours. Michael Brown’s body lay on the ground for more than 4 hours after he was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. When we spoke, Erica had yet to go to bed, having spent hours at the protest and editing materials from it, but says “it was all worth it.” They were protesting the decision by a grand jury not to indict Wilson in Brown’s death.
The rally that Erica speaks about was organized by #it’sbiggerthanyou. The speakers came from as far away as Africa and Bermuda, she says, with singers and spoken word artists. Erica describes the speeches as “empowering, motivating, and full of facts.” She estimates that at least two thousand people gathered at Underground in a show of solidarity.
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement highlighted that every 28 hours, a black man dies at the hands of a police officer, or a vigilante, according to reporter Walker. There were also other organizations there including, the FTP Movement, the GEN-Y Project, Southerners On A New Ground, Nation of Islam, and the Emmitt Till Legacy Foundation. A descendant of Till also spoke.
There were chants and singing. “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”, “No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police”, “I Believe That We Will Win”, “It Is Our Duty To Fight For Our Freedom”, “Free The Land By Any Means Necessary”, just some that Erica recalls resonated throughout the evening.
“It was more than just a rally or a march”, says Erica, “they had a strategy, a list of demands ready for the government and they called for continued protests and continued boycotting.” They mentioned that the Montgomery Boycott, which financially ruined the bus system, lasted for more than 300 days.
One of the families that Erica spoke with represented three generations. Grandmother Linda Sylva, originally from Philadelphia, daughter Jasmine Sylva, who lived in St. Louis, Missouri for a while, and Jasmine’s 5 year old son. Jasmine tells Erica that the boy was watching tv when he saw all the chaos. “He asked me why they were burning down the city”, says Jasmine, “I wanted to bring him to the rally so that he could get more information and so that we could talk about it as a family.” According to the grandmother, the effort has to continue “there has to be a place where we meet about this, and stay supportive, and keep people informed about it.” Linda Sylva saying, “I hope that Michael Brown is the last body that we have to protest over.” When Erica asked the grandson what he wanted to happen after the protests, he told her, “I want to be safe.”
There were also other rallies held in Atlanta in reaction to the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. Students from the Atlanta University (AU) Center marched from King Chapel on the campus of Morehouse College to CNN Center. But, Atlanta police say there were about two dozen arrests late last night, when another group broke windows out of a couple of businesses on Peachtree Street in downtown.