Friday, June 3, 2016

Fulton County Drops Case Against Tim Franzen

Almost four years ago Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, now rebranded as the Housing Justice League, launched an ambitious campaign to liberate vacant homes in Atlanta. The first campaign we launched was led by Michelene Meusa, Renika Wheeler, and their two amazing children Dillon and Jahla.

After occupying the house for seven days M&T bank flew down executives from New York and worked with Atlanta Police to evict the family despite community support. Renika and Michelene refused to leave and several other supporters, including myself, refused to leave as well. We knew that arrests were very likely but we also knew that half of the homes in the neighborhood were bank owned vacants that had been sitting empty for years while the Atlanta homeless populations was multiplying. It was a time for drastic measures. 

In the end four of us were arrested but we managed to bring a lot of media attention to Michelene and Renika's struggle and the housing crisis facing thousands of Atlantans. I'm happy to report that many people in the movement stepped up to support Michelene and Renika and they have been living in a home with their children, totally self sufficent, for years.

After that campaign we quickly won our next two home liberations and we started to see more people around the country use that model.

The four of us arrested were charged with criminal trespass. Eventually everyone's charges, except mine, were dropped. Over the years I've had countless court dates related to this charge, some of which I showed up to and no judge was present. There have been two separate occasions in which I was arrested on a failure to appear warrant, both times were extremely suspicious as they were right in the middle of protests or organizing meetings. Another time I was detained for over an hour after being followed by police after an organizing meeting. The officer claimed I didn't appear at a court proceeding related to the charge, thankfully I was able to call my lawyer and a friend from the back seat of the officers car before they attempted to book me.

Today I had to go to court, it was time to set a trail date. It's rare that I get any kind of pleasant surprise from the state but today I did; they decided to drop the case all together! In the paper work they cited: " An assessment has been made by the prosecutor and it's determined that in the best interest of justice the prosecution should be terminated"

I have no doubt that a major factor in this outcome is the fact the cities best movement lawyer, Mawuli Mel Davis of the Davis/Bozeman lawfirm represented me.

Despite the difficulties this specific arrest has brought me over the years I want to be clear that it was 100% worth all the trouble. Doing the right thing can never be wrong and the positive outcomes radically outweigh the personal issues I have endured. That being said I'm grateful to close the book on this one. Thanks to everyone that supported me through the process!

Love and Service,

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee