Beltline apologizes after images of black inmates appear on trail

This article was originally published Sept. 5.

Atlanta Beltline leaders are “gravely concerned” that images of black male prisoners were part of its public exhibit on the Westside Trail, Channel 2 Action News reported Monday.

The portion of the exhibit in question — which featured photos from Canine CellMates, a nonprofit that uses dogs to help Fulton County Jail inmates — was taken down by Shawn Deangelo Walton, who lives near the trail off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

There’s no need to display “more stereotypical images about black men being incarcerated,” Walton told the station. 

Canine Cellmates was created to help inmates while they're in jail, but the images displayed only showed black inmates with dogs. The program’s director said the photos weren't intended to offend or disrespect anyone but without any context, they could be misunderstood. 

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The Beltline issued a statement saying the photos did not reflect its commitment to “make art accessible to everyone by bringing the exhibit to public spaces and in doing so, be respectful of the community.”  

Part of the Art on the Atlanta Beltline exhibit on the Westside Trail. 
Photo: Channel 2 Actions News

“The community is understandably and justifiably upset and for that we humbly apologize,” the statement said. “We make no excuses and are in the process of investigating the process of how this occurred in order to take the most appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again.”

Walton took the banner to his home and replaced it with art that he said gives “an impression of education, progressive culture (and) dignity.” 

It's not clear whether Walton will face any repurcusions for removing the art. He would be happy to give the banner back to Beltline leaders, Channel 2 said.

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The photos depicting inmates were presented without context.

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