Monday, January 25, 2016

Public Pressure Works in the Case of Anthony Hill

Last week for four days, three nights protesters in Atlanta occupied space outside of the Dekalb County courthouse. Rise Up Georgia and friends set up tents and slept outside to bring in the indictment of Dekalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen. Olsen is responsible for fatally shooting 27 year old Anthony Hill last March.

Beginning on Monday night, protesters occupied the space outside the Dekalb County courthouse. The first night was harshly cold. Protesters put out a call for donations of hot food and warm clothes and the community responded. The first night began with about six tents or sleeping stations and the number grew to over ten by Wednesday night. Each tent slept 3-6 people. Each morning started early with donations of hot coffee and breakfast. Protesters provided relief through organized shifts. Many community members came and left throughout the occupation providing much needed opportunities for protesters to get some rest.
Thursday was the final stretch. The grand jury heard the case and the decision was to be announced that evening. The crowd grew and so did the anticipation of the announcement. Protesters were more than ready to return home to the warmth and comfort of their homes but were also willing to remain at the courthouse until the decision was announced. It was originally predicted that the decision would be announced around 4:00PM. When the clock reach 5:00 and no word was given, protesters began to get worried.

At about 7:30pm the DA called a press-conference and the decision was to be announced. The crowd grew outside of the courthouse as the press conference was streamed live from inside the courthouse. Officer Olsen would be indicted on all six charges and an arrest warrant was issued. There were lots of tears of joy and relief amongst the crowd. Immediately the victory chants begun as they awaited Anthony’s family to exit the courthouse and address the crowd. The family and the very committed individuals of Rise Up Georgia recognized the indictment as win but are dedicated to getting justice through a conviction.

One thing that's clear is that sustained community organizing and public pressure has elevated this case. Every march, rally, night spent in the freezing cold, and online petition has helped create a crisis of morality that DeKalb County has been forced to take action on. Good organizing has brought the family and friends of Anthony Hill together with veterans, advocates for those living with mental illness and community members together to speak with one voice. 

American Friends Service Committee's Atlanta Economic Justice Program is excited to be counted as an allie to this important work and will continue to search for ways to provide support.

Avery Jackson
American Friends Service Committee

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