A Report on Protests from Atlanta

- by Desmond Gardfrey

Two recent events have made Atlanta activists more confident as of late. The annual Martin Luther King (MLK) March and the local march and rally against Bush's inauguration were both inspiring events.

The MLK march featured GLBT, environmental, antiwar, and Black Power contingents that raised relevant political issues in an event that receives much mainstream coverage and support. These groups provided a welcome surprise to attendees who expected the usual, but bland, civil rights and community empowerment messages.

I participated in the antiwar contingent, with the lead banner of "Money for human needs, Not for war!" Our chants were clear and outwardly directed to the MLK supporters who lined the streets. At several points along the march we were able to get folks along the march route to chant with us, "Bring the troops home, Now!" We also distributed hundreds of flyers advertising the counter-inaugural march and rally.

The counter-inaugural march and rally was an awesome event that has energized much of the Atlanta activist community. It was built as a broad event including women's rights, GLBT rights, labor, environmental, and antiwar speakers.

The march, with about 700 people, left the CNN building at noon and proceeded through downtown Atlanta. The march passed Georgia State University, where students stopped to watch the march. In some areas, we received generous support from GSU students, and even pulled a few into the march.

The biggest student action on that day was the walkout by high school students around Atlanta. About 200 high school students, from several schools, joined the march and rally. In the weeks leading up to January 20, students built the walkout through email announcements, distributing flyers, in some cases holding meetings after school, and word of mouth. Almost100 students walked out of Grady High School, near GSU, dwarfing the few dozen GSU students actually participating in the march.

At the rally speakers touched on several themes, including: the need to build a sustained movement against the Bush Agenda. As one speaker said, Bush doesn't have the mandate, we have the mandate: to struggle. Speakers also highlighted the connections between war and oppression and the need to bring more military families and soldiers into the antiwar movement.

At both the MLK march and local counter-inaugural, antiwar activists met military family members against the war, and plans are developing to form a local organization of military family members in Atlanta. As a city in the South, a region dominated by the military, this will be important. Another thing to watch is whether we can build and sustain a city-wide coalition of student activists.

Many participants in the MLK march and local counter-inaugural are looking for a series of protest actions. Plans for a mobilization to Ft. Bragg, NC for an antiwar protest, March 19, are on the horizon. Key to the development of a movement is the discussion of politics (political developments), and the impact they have on each another. One of the first opportunities is a speaker's panel on the upcomming Iraqi "elections" and what they will mean for the antiwar movement.

Desmond Gadfery is a Southern Representative of the Campus Anti-War Network at Georgia State University.
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