Banner at the Home Depot protest in Atlanta, Georgia on 6/29/2023. (Photo: Atlanta Community Press Collective)
This is the sixth entry in a series of daily dispatches from a comrade who is attending the Weelaunee Summer Week of Action (June 24-July 1) in Atlanta, Georgia:
This week of action has been defined by a move away from the woods and into the terrain of the city. There have always been events outside of the forest--whether social gatherings or targeted attacks--but the beating heart of the movement was previously grounded in Intrenchment Creek Park and its surrounding areas. Now, with the movement exiled from the place it calls home, the pivot to the broader urban area comes as a strategic and, frankly, mandatory maneuver. Without the capacity to block destruction of Weelaunee with our physical presence, a higher emphasis has been placed on attacking forest-destroyers through more indirect avenues: pressure campaigns on insurers, targeting the business interests of funders, and confronting the politicians backing the cop city project.
That's how, on the sixth day of the sixth week of action, we found ourselves at the Home Depot, a major donor to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
We arrived at the protest only ten minutes after the 5:00 p.m. start time listed on the flyer. By the ephemeral metric of "anarchy time," we were perfectly punctual, perhaps even early. But we had already sensed that something was off while on our way: two helicopters hung in the air against the haze of the afternoon sky and circled the area where we were headed. Turning into the strip mall parking lot, we found police cruisers parked seemingly every five or six spaces. A weight of uncertainty fell over us but, figuring that we probably passed as normal trustworthy people, we parked and started walking the rest of the way to Home Depot. Unfortunately, our assumption about our appearance was quickly proven false when a private security team zipped up to us in a golf cart, vigorously demanding that we leave the area.
Circling back to the main road, we found the demonstrators lined up along the sidewalk. We learned that just before we arrived, police had arrested two people, one of whom was movement elder Lorraine Fontana.
Lorraine Fontana holding a Stop Copy City sign. (Photo: Atlanta Community Press Collective)
The Home Depot was locked down and closed, as was the Starbucks that the demo stood in front of. The two helicopters we saw earlier hung overhead, now accompanied by a drone. Alongside police cruisers were additional unmarked cars, private security guards in a pickup truck, and the aforementioned golf cart team that had picked us out as troublemakers minutes before.
The scale of police presence in the space, and how clumsy their execution had been,seemed comical. It seemed unlikely that three sets of aerial surveillance were going to provide any additional information about a stationary group of fifty or so. It also seemed to defeat the purpose to paint each unmarked car the same highly recognizable shade of blue and to park them right next to marked cars. In any case, it was both revealing and a touch pathetic when an officer got on a loudspeaker and argued that he was, in fact, not an idiot.
Despite every attempt at intimidation, the demonstration went on unabated. Chants were shared between short speeches. Most were from the usual Stop Cop City movement repertoire, while a few were specific to the campaign to boycott Home Depot:
"Stop! Don't shop! No money for cops!"
Chalk graffiti at the protest. (Photo: Atlanta Community Press Collective)
Drums pounded rhythmically while people took turns leading chants. Flyers contextualizing the call to boycott Home Depot were distributed to passers-by. Every so often, a motorist would honk in support,and at least two city buses did so as well.
Besides the attempted show of force, very little occurred in terms of direct confrontation after the initial arrests. The only departure from this was when private security officers aggressively approached one protester standing separate from the group. Focus quickly turned toward the officers with chants of, "Cops, pigs, murderers!" forcing the security guards back to their vehicles, one of them visibly shaking his head.
After that, the action carried on and wound down without much event. That night, a vigil was held for the two arrestees and, the following day, they were released into the loving arms of their community.