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Capitalism Creates Crisis. Solidarity is the Solution.
COVID-19 is a natural threat, but the crisis we’re all facing is political and economic. Even if we avoid contracting the virus, we can’t “self isolate” from our bills. Social distancing doesn’t put food on the table or keep a roof over our heads.
We started Atlanta Survival Programs in a rush, as COVID-19 started taking off. It was clear that the government wouldn’t respond, too concerned with protecting business profits to take the threat seriously. It was clear that there would be a huge increase in food insecurity, as grocery stores empty of food and most people’s wallets empty of funds. Knowing that no help was coming from the rich and powerful, we responded by looking to the people and resources around us, and getting organized.
Two weeks later, more than 10,000lbs of free groceries have been delivered to the homes of people in need. Hundreds of people have responded to the call to help, forming a large scale, highly effective operation almost overnight. It’s growing by the day.
This is an amazing achievement, but it’s not nearly enough.
The fact is, capitalism has left our communities hollowed out, brittle, on the edge of collapse for a long time now. Everyone is desperate. Trump talks about getting the country back to normal, but there’s no normal to return to. No job, no childcare, no health insurance, growing debt, soaring rent: this is the status quo many have been barely surviving under for years – and that’s without a pandemic-fueled recession. If we return to normal, it will destroy us. We need to create a different world to return to.
Right now, while everything is on pause, we have a chance to build that world. Instead of going to work, a hundred of us spent the past two weeks figuring out how to get food to those who need it. Some have begun organizing with their neighbors to go on rent strike, or to open up abandoned houses to get homeless people a safe place off the streets. Out-of-work engineers are collaborating over video conference, working around the clock to design DIY medical care tools. Farmers are preparing new land to grow free food this spring.
The lesson is clear: When the economy stops, we keep going – and we’re actually more capable of caring for each other without it.
The Atlanta Survival Programs are a crisis response, but they’re not a short term measure, because the crisis isn’t over until survival is possible for everyone.
Free Grocery Deliveries For All
a covid-19 relief initiative
Based on projections, we expect that the new coronavirus will have a severe impact on people in Atlanta. Before long, everyone will know someone personally who’s impacted by the pandemic, and institutions will not be able to keep up with the need for aid. Official support will not be available to everyone, particularly those already marginalized and unprivileged.
Time is short, we need to act now to organize ourselves to care for our communities. While the most immediate needs are for medical care, most of us are not medical experts. But everyone can support each other by caring for other vital needs.
No matter how you’re affected by the pandemic, the Food4Life program exists to help everyone survive.
– Are already self-isolating because their age and/or medical conditions put them in serious danger if they contract the virus.
– Can’t afford expensive grocery delivery services must either risk exposure or go hungry.
– Are sick and cannot leave home for fear of infecting others.
– Can’t afford groceries because of lost work or structural poverty
– Live in a food desert. Lack of access to healthy food weakens the immune system, putting everyone in greater danger.
The program is straightforward in practice:
– Bulk food is donated by charities, grocery stores, community groups, and farmers.
– Volunteers are provided with protective equipment and training for preventing the spread of contagions.
– Organizers dispatch volunteers to make deliveries on a schedule, and handle logistics.
– Grocery drop-offs are made directly outside the homes of people in need, avoiding direct contact.
It will take an army of volunteers to meet the need, so we’re calling on anyone who’s able to sign up to volunteer.
– Food Donations
– Logistical volunteers (to handle volunteer coordination, recruitment, technology, communications, etc)
Several notable landmarks stand near the corner of Mayson Avenue and Hardee Street in the historically African-American community of Edgewood on Atlanta’s eastside, but only one of them, The Teardown House, is unmissable.
The current wave of insurrections sweeping the globe brings with it new tactics, new tools, and new ideas. In solidarity with these movements we offer this bundle at-cost, for those who want to be ready for the next uprising.
Police circulated wanted posters of alleged troublemakers simply because they were seen at the protest. Student activists were arrested at home and even in class. Some of the arrestees were facing years in jail. The stress and fear was a tremendous burden on a community already reeling from a police murder. One of Scout’s friends who feared being targeted as a protester committed suicide. Still the Georgia Tech administration continued their campaign of repression.
But in response, a power solidarity effort came together to support the arrestees. Benefit shows raised money, supporters contributed generously to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. Friends and comrades came to every court date, so that those being targeted wouldn’t have to face it alone. Lawyers stepped up to provide cheap or free representation.
Finally more than a year later, all the cases have been resolved. The state was forced to drop most charges, and nobody went to jail. This wouldn’t have been possible without the strength and solidarity of many people.
But while the cases are over, the struggle against the Georgia Tech administration, the police, and anti-lgbtq violence continues. We will never forget Scout Schultz!
Every month, Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross sends out a newsletter to about 125 prisoners who have expressed an interest in getting it. This month, in honor of the nationwide prison strike, we sent the issue out a bit early to give updates and encouragement. The newsletter goes to over a dozen prisons, mostly in Georgia. It contains news and updates about ways that prisoners are resisting the unjust conditions of their confinement, from protests and hunger strikes to legal actions. Prisoners write contributions, everything from poetry and art to social commentary and opinion pieces and updates about their own struggles for resistance. By responding to pieces from previous months, they are able to set up a sort of dialogue and express support and solidarity with each other.
The newsletter gets passed around from prisoner to prisoner, and each issue contains a note saying to write us if you want to get added to the mailing list. So the list of prisoners who receive it grows slightly each month. We have contact with several prisoners who are particularly down for the struggle and well connected with others in their prisons, so we get several new requests for the newsletter each month from them alone.
All told, each letter costs about $0.55 to mail, including stamps, envelopes, paper, and toner. We are only restricted in how many we can mail out by the amount of money we are able to fundraise. Each time we have a mailing, we pass the hat, and each attendee throws in a couple bucks. So far that has been enough to float our mailing each month, but money is tight for Atlanta Anarchist Black Cross.
How You Can Help
If you want to contribute content to the newsletter to update prisoners about things relevant to them, like struggles going on in other prisons, you can send us a piece and we will get it into the next newsletter. You can write it yourself or find it on the Internet.
We always need money; you can contribute or hold a fundraiser, and get in touch via ATLblackcross.org.
Another huge need is pen pals for prisoners. It can be very isolating and disheartening to be in prison, and knowing that someone on the outside remembers them and cares can be a literal lifesaver. Each letter they receive means so much, far more than the effort that it takes you to write. You can set up an account at jpay.com and exchange emails with some prisoners (in some prisons they have access to tablets so they can email). If you would like to write one of the prisoners on our mailing list who expressed interest in having a penpal or need help with tasks from someone on the outside, get in touch via the website. There is a guide to writing prisoners on the website to get you started.
However you choose to contribute, your support is vital for prisoners who are brave enough to put everything on the line for their rights.
Edgewood, one of the first black suburbs of Atlanta, has been home to many poor and black families for generations. But now the neighborhood has been identified as valuable real estate, and wealthier, whiter people have begun grabbing up property to develop in hopes of making a great deal of money. In the past couple years, just on the five-block stretch of Mayson Avenue where the Teardown is located, about a dozen new, expensive properties have sprung up; meanwhile smaller, lower income housing is demolished to make way. The face of the neighborhood has been changing as property values skyrocket and the low-income neighbors of color have found it harder to afford to stay.
Aggressive Policing: A Tool of Gentrification
Along with increasing housing taxes and rent prices, gentrification has been driven by an increased police presence, and enforcement of certain laws against certain people. Neighbors of color report having difficulty walking 6 blocks to the MARTA station without facing detention and harassment by police. Black kids, some as young as 11 and 14, have been stopped and frisked by police under suspicions of drug or gang activity with very flimsy support. Roadblocks are a common sight in the neighborhood, with unclear explanations for what they are looking for why they are needed. Sometimes police do presence patrols, parking or standing in a visible area to show a police presence and communicate a message that the neighborhood is being heavily policed.
Police Answer to Gentrifiers
This increase in police presence and activity is no mistake; it is no coincidence with the rising property values and developing high-income properties. Wealthy property owners and developers communicate closely with police departments and zone 6 police and demand ever-increasing police pressure on the poor people of color in the neighborhood. They believe that people of color being visible in their day-to-day activities drives down property values, so they pressure police to make it more difficult for black neighbors to be out and about. Police commonly disrupt community events put on by black people, for example a community barbecue that has been an Edgewood tradition for decades, Edgewood day, was met with heavy police harassment. The next day another neighborhood event aimed at giving backpacks to school children was disrupted by police.
Gentrifiers are very clear on what their purpose is in the neighborhood and who they need to get rid of two enact it. Police are one of their most important tools in bringing this vision about. Members of the Teardown and Copwatch of East Atlanta and our friends attend “neighborhood planning unit” and “Organized Neighbors of Edgewood” meetings, so we are privy to conversations between wealthy property owners and police that are not usually made public. We have heard meeting attendees ask the police why we can’t build a wall around the low income housing complex called Edgewood Court. They frequently demand more security cameras in public spaces and other law enforcement technology such as license plate readers on cars. Police encourage attendees to call 911 on gatherings of people in yards and on street corners. They talk about use of databases that help them predict crimes, and they were port on the ways in which they are meeting the demands of the gentrifiers to crack down on community activities by black people. For example a house that frequently posted barbecues in the yard was discussed as being a problem area, and police explained how they were using city ordinances and quality of life crimes to repeatedly cite and arrest attendees of these events. Copwatch documented some of these efforts, for example baseless searches, and arrests and detentions based on flimsy reasoning like jaywalking. We also documented when the house was raided by about 50 masked SWAT team officers, who searched the entire place but found nothing illegal in the house.
Gentrifiers have a lot of power and influence over the police, and they know it and are not afraid to use it. Police know it too; these are the people they answer to.
So what are we going to do?
One way to combat this is to attend the community meetings where they are making these demands and push back against them. We can help facilitate attendance by the people most affected and targeted by the police, by offering rides, information about time and location, and support when the meetings are demoralizing or threatening.
Copwatch is another tactic used to push back against unfair an overzealous policing. Filming the police limits their ability to break the law and get away with it. Documenting and establishing patterns of harassment against poor people of color that are not applied against wealthy and white members of the same neighborhood can help us to make legal challenges. But more importantly, it can help us to inform ourselves about the ways in which our neighborhoods are under attack so that we can coordinate to fight back.
Our Community Ties Make Us Strong
One of the most important things that we can do is to form bonds with our neighbors so that we know how and when we need to support each other. If a landlord is not taking care of a mold problem, or is suddenly jacking up the rent, we need to be able to come together and figure out ways to help keep each other from being pushed out of the neighborhood. Dealing with increased rents can be overwhelming when you are isolated, but we can offer projects such as the free store and the food distro to offset some of those costs. The friendships that we build with our neighbors allows us to reach out to each other in times of need and conflict so that we can help each other keep fighting–so we can all keep living.
Nazis from the “National Socialist Movement” staged a hate rally in the Metro Atlanta area on April 21st.
A diverse coalition of anti-racist activists protested the rally, but police violently repressed these protesters. Cops attacked and arrested people with absolutely no justification – particularly people of color and other marginalized individuals – who are still facing state repression. Of the 10 arrests, one has had his charges dropped, two have taken pleas and paid fines, five still face misdemeanor charges ranging from pedestrian in roadway to mask-wearing to obstruction, and two face felony obstruction of an officer.
The defendants facing charges have not all been able to hire lawyers yet, so we are still fundraising for them. Other likely costs include travel, fines, and court fees. Please contribute what you can and spread the word!
Any funds remaining after the Newnan defendants’ needs are met will go towards supporting ongoing legal defense for Atlanta protesters.
Atlanta Food Not Bombs has been sharing free food with anyone who is hungry for over a decade. We believe that food is a human right, and that no authority should be able to prevent anyone from eating.
Georgia State University Police has begun a campaign of harassment aimed at anyone who tries to share food with people in Hurt Park downtown. They claim that giving away food is illegal without a food service establishment license from the City. The cops’ legal claims are confusing, contradictory, and ultimately false. What it comes down to is that they don’t want homeless people in the park, they want them to go somewhere else.
But when they’re forced out of the park, the homeless won’t be going into a shelter, since the City finally won their years-long fight to shut down Atlanta’s largest shelter. And they certainly won’t be going into housing, in a city where gentrification and speculation has created what many are calling an affordable housing crisis. Developers, university administrators, and city planners do not care that there’s nowhere for poor people to go. As far as they are concerned, the homeless are a nuisance to be dealt with the same as rats and pigeons.
The cops have already charged one of our volunteers with this supposed crime, but we will not stop. If the government makes sharing illegal, then we have no choice but to be criminals. Not just because our conscience requires it, but because helping each other is the only way we will all survive.
We call on everyone who opposes this repression to stand against it directly: Come to Hurt Park next Sunday and occupy it with us. Bring anything you want to share: food, resources, services. Bring music, fun, and festivity. Let’s show that a park full of people caring for each other is better than a park sanitized by police.
Sunday Nov. 26th – 2pm
Hurt Park, Atlanta GA
We also invite anyone who’s interested in supporting Food Not Bombs to come to our planning meeting, Saturday Nov. 25th, 7pm at 80 Mayson Ave NE.