Two food trucks sat in front of the Fulton County Courthouse on Friday, blasting feel-good music and serving up barbecue and gyros.
Starting Monday, the length of Pryor Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Mitchell Street, where those trucks normally serve customers, will be closed to traffic until Aug. 18. The shutdown comes in anticipation of a possible local indictment of former President Donald Trump, under investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Rows of orange barricades and a lone supporter of the former president, carrying a Trump 2024 flag and a bullhorn as he circled the courthouse, were the only outward signs Friday of a looming decision in the Georgia probe.
By the eve of the road closure, more preparations for the days ahead were visible, with news vans parked along Pryor Street in front of the courthouse.
Mass continued Sunday at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception across the street from the courthouse, with parishioners walking alongside a barricade lining part of the sidewalk as they exited the church.
Ruth Davis-Panchelli, who headed downtown on Sunday to help serve food to the homeless, said she expected congestion from the road closure would be “a hassle” for residents. “But I’m sure as soon as the case is resolved, it will go away,” she added.
Some merchants at Underground Atlanta, the historic downtown mixed-use development that sits about a block from the courthouse, expect the road closure and barricades will mean less parking for their customers.
Adam Dandal, who owns the Best of Atlanta gift shop at Underground Atlanta, said many of his customers are tourists and park on the street, “If they block the street, that’s it,” Dandal said. “It’s going to affect our business a lot.”
Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC
Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC
For others whose livelihoods are tied to this block of downtown Atlanta, it was otherwise business as usual.
Al Boyce, owner of 2 Boy’s BBQ, said he simply plans to move his food truck farther down the street during the road closure. Mostly unbothered by the tightened security, Boyce said he isn’t concerned about losing business because his food is “well-known in the community.”
“There’s other parking around here for me,” he said. “I’ll be able to get it on.”
These are the same vendors who are regularly forced to move their trucks for movie shoots, and the possible fourth indictment of a former president is the same sort of inconvenience. Amir Moradi, who works at the Gyro Chef food truck next to Boyce, said his business made the decision temporarily to move to another part of town. He was unaware of the reasons behind the change.
Around the corner from the courthouse, Jam Rock Jamaican restaurant owner Dexter Goodhall said he has experienced issues with past road closures for filming, and he is worried about delivery drivers’ access to his storefront during what could be a political show.
Pryor Street, along with the courthouse and Fulton County Government Center, will still be open to pedestrian traffic. There will be no street parking around the perimeter of the courthouse beginning Monday.
Kelly Quindlen, a pastoral assistant at the nearby Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Central Avenue, said the church could see lower attendance if traffic concerns deter parishioners from making the drive. More likely, she said, is a disruption to their food pantry services, as donation trucks might not be able to access their loading driveway.
The church runs a soup kitchen on Saturday mornings, a sandwich line every weekday and a food pantry on Wednesdays and Thursdays. To support those operations, they receive food deliveries up to three times a week.
“Most of the folks we serve walk, so it’s not going to necessarily impact our day-to-day ministry,” Quindlen said. Other church volunteers said they plan to take MARTA during the shutdown.
Trump supporter Ian Smith drew some attention Friday as he walked around the courthouse with his blue flag. He said he believes the allegations against Trump are “politically motivated” and intended to stop him from making another presidential run.
While Smith made an early appearance at the courthouse, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has said the road closures and barricades are just part of their plans to increase security, anticipating crowds and demonstrations will grow in the days ahead. Smith isn’t likely to be among them, he said.
“If he comes in, I’ll see him on TV or whatever,” Smith said of the prospect of Trump’s arrival in Atlanta. “I’m not going to take a day off because I, like everyone else, if I have to take a day off I won’t be able to pay my rent.”