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|Atlanta mayor to kick OWS protesters out of Woodruff Park|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|October 24, 2011 17:39|
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced this afternoon that he was reneging on his promise to allow Occupy Wall Street protesters freedom to remain in Atlanta's Woodruff Park until early November.
During a press conference at City Hall, Reed said that events over the weekend led to his decision to revoke his previous executive order. A two-day hip-hop concert, called Atlanta Hip-Hop Day Free Concert Festival, was scheduled to be held in Woodruff Park on Oct. 23-24, but organizers failed to provide the city with an adequate security plan, according to the mayor. The use of a power generator without a permit was also a cause to shut down the event, Reed added.
Around a half-dozen Occupy Atlanta protesters were present during the often-heated press conference. OWS Atlanta members shouted several times that Reed was lying or fabricating his reasons for the eviction.
The mayor gave no indication of when he would officially revoke the executive order that allowed the protesters to remain in Woodruff Park beyond the 11 p.m. curfew for the city's parks.
Reed was surrounded today by members of the local faith community, who he said would mediate an agreement with the members of Occupy Wall Street's Atlanta faction. Among the clergymen was openly gay Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim.
There is also a sizable LGBT contingent among the Occupy Atlanta protesters.
Lesser said after the press conference that he received word from the mayor Sunday that his participation in the mediation process was wanted.
"He wanted to know if there was a group of us who would be willing to speak with and negotiate with Occupy Wall Street protesters," Lesser told GA Voice.
“I wanted to be here as somebody who was open to the messages. As someone who is open to civil disobedience, but there is truth in some of the public's safety concerns."
Lesser added that there was not currently a plan of action, but said that he had previously visited Woodruff Park to talk to protesters.
“Where I get nervous is when people get completely demonized. That happens on both sides. That's why I thought it was important for people to see the positives of humanity. Part of what I was able to express was a certain sense of positivity with people that I've connected with [in Woodruff Park].”
Lesser added that he would be in the park Wednesday but was unable to provide any further details about his role in the mediation.
The Atlanta Police Department's reputation has been tarnished in recent years after the unconstitutional 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, the shooting of Kathryn Johnston in 2006 and recent allegations made against the department involving public strip searches.
“Nobody wants police brutality,” Lesser said of possible arrests for those who refuse to leave the park. “There's going to be, because of everything, great sensitivity.”
Top photo: Openly gay Rabbi Joshua Lesser attended Mayor Kasim Reed's press conference announcing the eviction of Occupy Wall Street Atlanta protesters from Woodruff Park (by Ryan Watkins)
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