The man with Ludacris’ phone number sought the high ground in the battle for Woodruff Park on Monday.
In press conference packed with weirdness, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that Occupy Atlanta protesters would be cleared from the green space “at a time of my choosing.”
He asked a cadre of religious leaders, lined up behind him, to negotiate a peaceful exit for Occupy Atlanta. If there is no deal, force will be used, the mayor promised.
But it was the way the mayor built his case before reporters – arguing he was obligated to oust a group he had sanctioned two weeks ago — that was unusual. In declaring that the city’s relationship with Occupy Atlanta had changed for the worse, the former music industry attorney based his decision largely on his familiarity with the rules of outdoor hip-hop events.
By way of background, first consider these lines from an old biography:
”[Reed] has also become a fixture in entertainment law, especially in Atlanta’s explosive hip-hop and R&B music scene. Relationships, he says, going back to his days at Howard [University], led to that role. “I went to school with a group of people who were on their way up,” says Reed, such as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who was “the most confident person I’ve met.”
Back to Monday. The press conference was called for 4 p.m. on an hours’ notice. In addition to reporters, a dozen members of Occupy Atlanta scrambled to the second-floor event. As did Joe Beasley, southern director for the Rainbow/PUSH organization, who has taken the group under his wing.
Reed began with an obligatory statement of respect for First Amendment rights in a city filled with civil rights heroes, living and dead. But he quickly moved to a hip-hop concert that Occupy Atlanta had planned for last Saturday.
”This event promoter did not have a security plan. In fact, the team that was responsible for preparing the security plan for this event promoter quit on Tuesday of last week. So he was attempting to hold a two-day hip-hop event without police protection.
“This gentleman also submitted a $2,500 payment for the permit that is related to that event through a check, which is not an acceptable for the city of Atlanta.”
“Mayor, that’s a lie,” said Beasley, who had stationed himself within a dozen feet of the mayor. Occupy Atlanta forces, with a red-capped Tim Franzen acting as the main voice, stood behind him.
“And this is easily verifiable,” continued an unperturbed mayor:
“Most importantly, He did not have police protection at the event. As of Saturday, when the hip-hop organizers arrived at Woodruff, they had not submitted payment in the appropriate form, and did not have adequate security.”
“In the meantime, this event was advertised on V-103. It included a number of artists, and also included the hip-hop artist Ludacris, who never planned on attending, and was not attending. So you have an event that does not have an appropriate police plan, being advertised on the largest urban radio station in the state of Georgia. This created an untenable situation….”
The mayor described a Saturday that had drawn 600 hip-hop fans to the downtown park. When his communications director and chief of staff arrived to announce that the permit for the concert had been revoked, they were shouted down, and required police protection, the mayor said.
“That’s not true. That’s a lie. That’s a lie,” said Beasley.
“They were never in danger,” Franzen protested.
“Run the video, please,” the mayor said. And after a little fumbling, a large TV screen at Reed’s right hand showed local news video of the Saturday confrontation.
Franzen appeared in a frame. “We do whatever we want,” he said.
“Y’all here that?” the mayor asked reporters.
“There’s a context to that,” a defensive, real-life Franzen declared.
The mayor moved on to a second, and less-convincing, argument for removing Occupy Atlanta. The city fire marshal had banned combustible liquids from the park. That included gasoline-powered generators required by the Saturday hip-hop concert.
The protestors had smuggled a generator in anyway, in a mail bag. And when police attempted to seize it, campers formed a human chain around around the chugging machine. “Having human beings place their body on a combustible generator” was dangerous, the mayor said.
Reed quickly returned to the hip-hop concert proper. “I have always said I’m going to do what is necessary to keep citizens of this city safe. And having a hip-hop concert without having an appropriate police plan…” the mayor said.
“Then why don’t you address what brought us out here in the first place — 30,000 homeless, foreclosures,” shouted Franzen.
Reed plodded on: “What they have done is change the nature of the relationship….”
“This is an outrageous narrative,” Franzen charged. He might have said “ludicrous,” but he didn’t.
“….I believe they placed lives at risk this weekend,” Reed said to the cameras.
“Oh, my God,” said Franzen, his voice dripping with disbelief.
”I believe that people showed up at a city of Atlanta park to go to a hip-hop concert. And you don’t need to do extensive research to see what can happen when hundreds of people show up for a hip-hop concert, artists who are advertised are not there, and when there are not police there to protect the event….”
Reed closed by speaking of a woman he had run into outside Woodruff Park on Saturday. She had come to see Ludacris, not Occupy Atlanta.
Ludacris, a.k.a. Christopher Brian Bridges, was a donor to Reed’s 2009 campaign for mayor. “I spoke with Ludacris,” the mayor said. “He was never coming to the park. You’ve had people killed in concerts where artists who were promised do not show up all across the country. This happens all the time.”
A reporter pointed out to the mayor that the V-103 ads didn’t say Ludacris would perform – just that he would be honored at the event. Which, to the mayor, made no difference.
“This is a spin. This is B.S.,” Franzen said loudly.
Which is when Reed re-introduced his clergy/negotiators. “We are not in a place where we can have productive dialogue,” the mayor closed.
Not wanting to be left out of the party, Debbie Dooley of Atlanta Tea Party Patriots says her group has sent this e-mail to Mayor Kasim Reed:
We have noticed that the City of Atlanta has waived many of your ordinances, fees, etc., in regard to the Occupy Atlanta protests. We have called in the past to find out information for events on City of Atlanta venues like Woodruff Park and have been told it would require a permit and fees and there were restrictions.
In the future, Atlanta Tea Party expects to receive the same “benefits” or waiving of fees, permits, restrictions that you have accorded the Occupy Atlanta protests. If we don’t, we seek legal action. Thank you for your attention in this.
Dooley says the tea partyers have received no reply.
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul’s claim that rival Herman Cain had declared opponents of the Federal Reserve to be “ignorant.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider