UPDATED: Occupy Atlanta Briefly Takes Over MLK Site In Old Fourth Ward
Kicked out of Woodruff Park, group spends the night on federal green space
Update: Occupy Atlanta protestors camped overnight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site but left the land early Friday morning.
And now: Plan B.
A day after being forcibly removed out of Downtown's Woodruff Park by Atlanta police, Occupy Atlanta regrouped its troops at the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site in the Old Fourth Ward.
The land is federal property and falls under the authority of the National Park Service.
It's not clear how long the Occupiers, who were using Twitter to inform members where to converge, will be allowed to stay. The National Park Service did not have an immediate comment late Thursday.
Early Friday morning, about 30 tents were set up on the lawn in the shadow of he sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi. Local leaders soon were on the scene, including Dist. 2 Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall and state Sen. Nan Orrock.
Around 100 people were camping around 1 a.m., Midtown resident Angel Poventud, who was at the site, estimated.
"There is some pretty powerful symbolism here, in this city, on this land — the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site," Poventud said. "The police and their show of force is gone for the night and the National Park Service personnel is treating everyone with kindness and respect."
Indeed, by picking the site — named for the slain civil rights leader whose movement centered around non-violence — Occupy Atlanta appears to be drawing parallels between what it say is a peaceful fight against Wall Street greed and government corruption and that of the civil rights marches of the 1960s.
In recent days, however, some Occupy movements have been marred with violence. On Tuesday, the Occupy Oakland protest in California descended into chaos when protestors clashed with police. Nearly 100 protesters ended up being arrested.
Atlanta's Occupy movement has been mostly calm with the group claiming Woodruff Park since Oct. 7.
But Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ordered them expelled Tuesday following two incidents including an unauthorized hip-hop concert and installation of illegal generators and propane tanks at Woodruff Park over the weekend and a man carrying an AK-47 in open view near the park.
The expulsion was not without resistance; 52 people, about half of them homeless, were arrested. All but two of those arrested were later released on signature bonds.
After clearing Woodruff Park Wednesday, police barricaded the green space and kept it off limits to everyone under threat of arrest until late Thursday.
Hall and Orrock said they sympathized with some of concerns Occupy Atlanta and the movement in general want addressed. But both stopped short of saying they supported them outright.
Their main concern in coming out in the overnight hours Friday morning was to avoid a repeat of Tuesday night.
"I think there's a shared recognition that rash action right now is not in the best interest of the city or the occupiers," Orrock said. "And what we've been suggesting is let's work toward good will to find solutions and not have a reenactment of the other night."
Occupy Atlanta initially told members they would be taking over a field at John Wesley Dobbs Avenue and Jackson and Irwin streets.
But that field is city-owned property and the only playing field available to kids in the immediate neighborhood and Atlanta police had them leave, leading to the march to the King Historic Site.
Earlier in the day, the group had said it planned to take over Centennial Olympic Park, but it's not clear what led to the change of venue.