By Christian Boone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
It was promoted as the largest protest in the Southeast by its organizer, Je’ Wesley Day. It was not.
Eighteen people showed up at Center Hill Park in southwest Atlanta early Saturday afternoon, thinking they were demonstrating against a city-financed celebration of Atlanta police organized by City Council member Antonio Brown.
They arrived just as a group of volunteers were handing out the last bit of food they had prepared for officers stationed at the Zone 1 precinct next door. But that was just a small part of the event, organized by My Fellow Man, a charity made up of local business owners.
“The main thing we are doing is giving away computers and backpacks to the local Boys Club and other disadvantaged youths,” said Johnny Mims of My Fellow Man. “Is that what they’re protesting?”
The city had no involvement in the event, said Mims, adding Brown was invited because of his position on the council. He didn’t attend, citing a family emergency.
“So what’s the plan?” asked one of the protesters.
The protesters decided to march, shouting “No justice, no peace” as they passed the Zone 1 precinct.
While Day’s dreams of leading a massive rally may have fizzled, he managed to accomplish what appeared to be his primary goal: discrediting Brown, who’s serving his first term on the council.
Speaking to the small group of protesters Saturday, Day repeatedly invoked Brown’s name.
“It shows a level of insensitivity to hold an appreciation party at this time, just days after the Breonna Taylor grand jury’s decision,” said Day, a freelance journalist.
Day’s claims were not imagined. On Thursday, a press release promoting a “Community Unity Appreciation Rally,” co-sponsored by Brown, appeared on the council’s website.
“The event is being organized to show appreciation for the hard work and dedication provided by Zone 1 Atlanta Police Department and emergency personnel,” the release read.
The post was removed later that day, replaced with a statement to disregard the media advisory distributed by the council’s communications office.
Brown said it was all a misunderstanding, but the damage had been done.
On Friday, his speech during a rally seeking justice for Breonna Taylor — who was shot and killed in a botched police raid at her home in Louisville, Kentucky — was interrupted by boos and catcalls. One protester attempted to rush the stage while Brown was speaking.
The attacks against him have continued on social media, where the councilman has been a vocal critic of police misconduct. He said he supports a “reimagining” of law enforcement’s role in society.
As for his feelings about Day, “I’m doing my best just to ignore him.”