Protesters temporarily block Downtown Connector

Protesters temporarily block Downtown Connector

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Shelby Messing
Protesters stand in the middle of I-75 northbound near Freedom Parkway. (Shelby Messing)

A human blockade temporarily formed on I-75/85 northbound Wednesday evening as protesters halted traffic. The incident was part of a protest in response to the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of a 18-year-old African-American by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

Atlanta police spokesman Officer John Chafee said a number of protesters were present on the Downtown Connector near Freedom Parkway. Their presence blocked traffic for a short time.

No arrests were made in connection to the protest, he added.

Southerners On New Ground field organizer Mary Hooks told the Associated Press that she and other grassroots organizers helped plan the protest as part of a national week of resistance to mass incarceration and police brutality. She said the protest was also connected to the Ferguson shooting.

People on Twitter were writing in support of the protest using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Will Mason of Atlanta went to Wednesday’s protest not as part of any group, but said he knew some friends with various groups who were going to be in attendance, so he wanted to show solidarity with them.

The incident in Ferguson, he said, is just one of the latest examples of brutality from police across the country. He cited two examples from Georgia in recent years – the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a botched 2006 drug raid, and the more recent raid in Habersham County in which a 19-month-old boy sustained injuries after a SWAT team member’s stun grenade landed in his playpen where he was sleeping.

“The police are becoming increasingly militarized, and there’s no real, sane explanation or justification for it from political leadership at any level,” Mason said. “People are getting tired of what essentially is looking more and more like fascism.”

The shooting in Ferguson, though, is the main reason he took part in Wednesday’s events.

Mason said the protest began with a rally in Woodruff Park. Participants then marched around the city, with some eventually reaching the highway.

Those who reached the Downtown Connector, he said, were able to shut down all its lanes for a little while.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in Atlanta. I think it’s an amazing protest event,” Mason said.

The protest had its supporters and critics on Twitter.

“Shut down NOW! I75/85 Atlanta s/b cuz #blacklivesmatter!!! #o22 o22walkout #ferguson #mikebrown,” wrote @PremTod.

“Folks in downtown Atlanta not playing abt Ferguson” tweeted @DecorusDea1.

“how is shutting the highway down at rush hour in Atlanta stopping police brutality in Ferguson?” asked @englishanj.

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