Forming part of a wider, global, protest collective, Occupy Atlanta has arisen (and arguably fallen) as a congregation speaking out against corporate structures; an acrimonious death sentence; environmental concerns, and furthermore, a wide array of issues that have impacted or affected those of the local area. Criticisms and high praise have surrounded the movement since it emerged in early October. Whilst there has been a general recognition and approval for its galvanisation of democratic values, the movement has been charged with not offering any substantial reform proposals or a unified position. On November 3rd, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published figures (from the mayoral office) of the costs incurred, receiving a mixed reception (roughly $450,000). Whilst people continue to be split over the presence of Occupy Atlanta, an undeniable ongoing interest has showcased how national issues and debates have come to be dramatically played out in the microcosm of Atlanta’s downtown area, centred on Woodruff Park. Fundamentally, Occupy Atlanta demonstrates the potential of the urban environment in being able to rally a number of people in a common cause.
The collection of photographs that I’m exhibiting were all taken on October 20th, prior to Kasim Reid’s authorised eviction of the protestors 5 days later. In this first picture, several things are displayed in how the movement has taken advantage of the city and what can be utilised. Pitched in the shadows of the urban high-rises, the movement’s base is right in the heart of Atlanta’s financial district with several higher-education institutes just around the corner. Part of the popularity that has surrounded the movement since its beginning has been its positioning alongside its most substantial segment of support. A thoroughfare for students during the week, Woodruff Park offered an opportunity to immediately attract an increasingly active percentage of the voting population facing heavy financial burdens, lack of prospects in the job market, as well as major challenges ahead in environmental protection. With an engulfing backdrop – attached to the symbolism found in Wall Street, the movement’s activity is a theatrical saga casting itself against the might of corporate America.
Although we have noted that in the past 60 or 70 years the U.S. City has gone from a defined urban core to what John Teaford has termed the “Edgeless City,” its retention of political organisation is still situated in the city centre. However, to say that those involved almost entirely stem from this area and its surrounding neighbourhoods would be false. Whilst I was in the park, I met several dedicated activists (one of which is the grizzly-looking man in the picture) who came from many miles away, often crossing state lines just to be a part of the protest. This is by no means an isolated incident. Whether looking at the more publicised occupations in Oakland, Chicago, New York, or even further afield in Europe, many have journeyed to be with those in the city core as well as supporting online, through publications and financial contributions. This diversity has led to a number of different issues being raised (exhibited in the 2 snaps displaying different banners). Within Occupy Atlanta, there have been bids to rename Woodruff Park, “Troy Davis Park” – in memory of a recent, controversial court case which ended in capital punishment. A number of protestors have demanded a revision of MARTA fare increases as well as several other taxes on the rise in the metroplex. Intertwined with all this are demands for troop withdrawals abroad; reform of major corporations who’ve been bailed out by U.S. taxpayers; government regulation being introduced on university tuition fees; change in healthcare coverage…the list goes on. As I refered to earlier, the city has been transformed into a theatrical stage playing on our emotions of fear and love, anxiety and feelings of security. In my last picture, What’s Your Story, dozens of tales are told relating to these global concerns yet personalised to give the sense of intimacy, which is heavily attached to the environment the protest is situated in.