Musings From the March…

We marched. Shoulder to shoulder.

We chanted.

“Hey Hey, Ho Ho… The NRA has gotta go!”

“Not One Step Back”

“Who are WE? RESISTANCE!”

“SAY HIS NAME! PHILANDO!”

WE MARCHED AND STOOD IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE WOMEN’S MARCH!

In 90-degree heat, with the powerful underscore of “Fight the Power!”, Gerald Griggs, Civil Rights Attorney, Activist, Legal Council with the Georgia NAACP and Founding member of the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, lead a group of 300+ protesters, state legislators, and community activists through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Griggs, lead us, in protest of the National Rifle Association’s resent incendiary commercial and reckless messaging regarding peaceful protests in America.

We started in the bedrock of the Civil Right’s Movement at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and ended on the steps of the Richard Russell Federal Building (Northern District of Georgia Federal Court–Department of Justice). Armed with “Dr. King’s 6 Principles of Non-Violence” , and the “Demands from Women’s March” we marched, we chanted, and we DEMANDED accountability for the misguided rhetoric, fear-mongering; and the deafening silence from the NRA regarding the murder of Philando Castile.

Gerald Griggs, Georgia Alliance for Social Justice.

NRA TV, and spokesperson, Dana Loesch released a commercial leveraging a scathing attach on “protesters” and “marchers”, who “loot and destroy” property, hence requiring the “clenched fist of justice” from law enforcement. However, absent from the rhetoric, was the overwhelming cases of murders among non-violent, primarily African- American citizens, by the same law enforcement officers.

You can watch the commercial here.

In response, groups including Black Lives Matter, LA and the GAFSJ countered the divisive rhetoric of the NRA video. BLM-LA activist, Funmilola Fagbamila in her powerful counter-ad, clapped back that the NRA is “inciting violence against people who are Constitutionally fighting for their lives.” Additionally, GAFSJ’s message to Dana Loesch’s claims to speak for all mothers, was that “countless ‘Moms like ME’, found the fear-mongering rhetoric and call-to-arms, distasteful, reprehensible and irresponsible.”

Furthermore, the NRA’s aggressive lobbying campaign frequently seeks to use fear and xenophobia as a means to influence legislatures across the nation.

As we turned the corner, at the intersection where the Georgia State Capital sits, we were reminded that the NRA has a strangle-hold on our legislature and chanted, “VOTE THEM OUT!”

In the 2017 Georgia General Assembly, the controversial “Campus Carry Bill”, heavily funded by the NRA, pushed for guns in Georgia universities. Despite the overwhelming outcry from university professors, administrators, student, parents and progressive gun groups, the legislation passed the General Assembly and was signed into law. March co-organizer, and social justice activist Hillary Holl, read an letter from a Georgia State University Professor expressing concerns with students having guns, and about not having training to deescalate students with firearms. In particular for those students who “get a bad grade”, “have poor impulse control”, et al. a firearm will potential make lethal a situation where normal deescalation will be ineffective.

Despite the General Assembly vote outcome, several state legislators were vehemently AGAINST the legislation, including State Rep. David Dreyer, and State Senator Vincent Fort. Fort, a veteran legislator and no novice to the shenanigans in the Statehouse, was unapologetic in his assertion that “The NRA owns legislators under the Gold Dome!”

As they marched shoulder to shoulder with us in blistering heat, they reminded us that–THIS IS POLITICAL!

Georgia State Representative David Dreyer, (D-59th).
Georgia State Senator (D-39)/Candidate for City of Atlanta Mayor, Vincent Fort.

Bev Jackson from Moms Demand Action gave a passionate testimony of how gun violence destroys the lives to too many innocent people through homicide and suicide. Jackson informed us that “women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries.” In addition, Dr. Keri Norris, a public health doctor informed us the the “enormous health care costs due to gun violence”, including the treatment of firearm-related injuries, and the often uncounted long-term care of survivors. Dr. Norris’ son was a victim of gun violence and currently receives long-term care.

Bev Jackson and Carol Allen, Moms Demand Action- GA.

At about noon, the crowd peacefully dispersed. March organizers Gerald Griggs, GAFSJ Executive Director Janel Green and I finished last-minute interviews, gathered our signs, banners, water bottles and flowers. After saying our goodbyes and thank yous, we walked to the MARTA station, reflecting on the success of the march, Gerald’s upcoming nuptials, my scheduled radio talk show interview, and next steps.

I got off at the MLK Memorial station, gave my final kisses and hugs to the team and prepared to walk to my car and then home.

But first:

I stopped by the Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park and had a private moment with my ancestors buried in the Slave Square. I placed the flowers, on an unmarked grave, that we’d purchased to give to counter-protesters. I thanked them for their struggle and reminded them that I will continue this fight.

Unmarked grave. Slave Square, Oakland Cemetery. Atlanta, GA.
Slave Square. Oakland Cemetery. Atlanta, GA.

Reflection on the march: It felt like revolution. If felt surreal. If felt overwhelming. It felt necessary. It felt like only the beginning.

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