Updated: Jun 28, 2020
BY Pivotal Sales I CAPS News
Published June 25, 2020
Photo Credit: Camy Arnett Production Studios
ATLANTA - Members of Black Lives Matter (BLM) want to know when the killing, the poverty and hostile conditions in southwest Atlanta and underserved minority communities will stop. After the killing of Rayshard Brooks in a local Wendy’s parking lot only weeks after the George Floyd murder, they want to know what’s next. What will it take to be heard?
Since the demolition of the Wendy’s restaurant in Southwest Atlanta, (now renamed Ground Zero by protesters), local residents have camped out on site around the clock. Posters, flowers and balloons flank the area. Spray painted at the scene where Rayshard Brooks took his last breath are the words Rest Rayshard. We got it from here.
Camy Arnett Production Studios reporter Pivotal Sales was on the scene at 8 AM Saturday June 20, to meet with protesters. Camera crews found BLM leader Garey Stokes and others picking up cans and debris left overnight.
When asked for a statement Stokes stated he would give one later in the day. Someone had been shot the night before. He had been up ensuring the safety of others on site.
In the middle of cleanup efforts, BLM member Kameisha Griffin agreed to tell us why they were there and why they planned to remain on the grounds.
"We're out here for obvious reasons. Our Brother Rayshard Brooks got killed out here. We know that. The world knows that. What they don't know is that we embrace this land because we're going to make it sacred. We're taking what was taken from us, what was made to belittle us, to take our strength and power and we're gaining power from it. What we care about is the legacy we're going to leave behind after the tragedy that was placed on us."
According to Griffin, news reports that protesters refused interviews are false. She maintained that the CAPS crew was the only media outlet who’d approached them directly at this time.
"We have yet to see the church come in and embrace or even be a mediator between us and the police. Nobody else came either. Wouldn’t y’all think that the police, the judicial system, the judges, any one of them would want to know what is going on down here? Why are these people still here every day?" Griffin stated.
When we returned later that afternoon for the interview we found a different scene. Armed protesters barricaded the intersection at University Avenue and Pryor Street. Upon our return, our camera crew was turned around and had to walk through the road block that had been driven with ease that morning.
We found Mr. Stokes at the center of the crowd. When asked what was going on, why the need for the armed barricade he told reporters,
"We're out here for safety, peacekeeping. We are armed. We had a negative situation where a Caucasian individual who was in fact racist shot a young lady out here. She was shot twice. We have our roads barricaded off so no more danger can come in here. We're trying to stay away from danger. That's why our brother Rayshard is not here. Because of violence. So we are here to practice peace, no violence. "
When asked what Black Lives Matter’s role was in the looting and violence of the past weeks, he reported, African Americans are being blamed for a lot of this.
"Yes, there might be some African American individuals but it’s every race that’s looting. We (Black Lives Matter) are not with the looting. No one out here has looted. Tearing stuff up or robbing, that’s not going to make it better."
What’s next for this group? Griffin and Stokes agree that they will continue until change occurs.
"We vow to turn this monument into a museum and a civil rights activist treatment and training center for the African American Community as well as a relaxing and chilling sitting area. This marks a day in in history."
As we walked past the barricade of African American men with rifles blocking traffic and Atlanta police posted across the street, thoughts of our nation’s founding came to mind. A calm before the storm. A time when armed militia flanked the colonial cobblestone streets of Boston at a standoff with British Redcoats later to become the Boston Massacre. I wondered why this scene of the founding fathers has gone down in history as patriotic bravery against a tyrannical British regime. Yet in this current moment in history protesters are being portrayed as reckless and armed -- thugs even as our president put it. Is there no narrative of the bravery of a few against an unjust system? Perhaps it’s who’s telling the story. Armed Protesters or Justice Keepers? My job is to convince you of neither, but bring truth to the narrative that a people hurting need to be heard and the church must be the ear.
Stay with us as we investigate as to whether there is a difference between Black Lives Matter the statement and the movement.
Protesters were reportedly removed from the site on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Based on inquiries made by media outlets to the police, no further details have been provided.