While a neo-Nazi rally drew a reported two dozen participants in Newnan, more than 100 protestors gathered April 21 in downtown Decatur requesting justice for Black people killed during encounters with police.
Rally participants questioned why certain police-involved shootings of Black people didn’t result in jail time for officers. Event organizers also protested on behalf of Anthony Hill, a Black man and Air Force veteran shot by a DeKalb County Police officer in an apartment complex while unarmed.
“We’re going to keep this man in our thoughts and in our prayers and we’re going to show up to Judge Johnson’s courtroom on May 21 at 9 a.m. to make sure the trial goes forward,” said Gerald Griggs, co-founder of the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice. “Atlanta and the nation is concerned about justice for Anthony Hill.”
A mixed crowd of White and Black protesters walked throughout Decatur, eventually ending at the DeKalb County Courthouse steps.
A trial for Robert Olsen, the officer who shoot and killed Hill, will be held May 21. The incident occured in March 2015. Hill, who served in Afghanistan and was later discharged when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Some say Hill was having a mental health challenge episode during the time of the shooting.
Protesters honored those killed by police-involved incidents by saying their names out loud.
“We really shouldn’t have to gather like this to talk about these shootings of unarmed individuals,” Griggs said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about whether our sons, daughters, nieces or nephews will come home or even stay home and be safe. That’s what this movement is about.”
Family members of those killed by police-involved shootings spoke at the rally, asking for people of all colors come together and work toward justice for all.
Kenyette Barnes, a board member with the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, said rallies and protest have an important impact on the community.
“I think it’s important that we show up as a collective to speak out against these atrocities,” Barnes said. “The more we speak up, the more the judicial process will start looking at these incidents as a result of poorly trained and sometimes bias officers who use their power to take the lives of innocent people.”
Barnes said the death of Hill is an example of several issues with police departments and officers.
“What happened with Anthony Hill is an atrocity and we looked at that from the intersection of mental health and policing. It speaks to a lot of issues. It speaks to bias in policing and speaks to the need for mental health training and de escalation tactics,” Barnes said. “His death sent shock ways not just through DeKalb County, but through the social justice community as well.”
In October of 2017, DeKalb County Police officials hosted a roundtable discussion with mental health professionals to discuss how the department could better handle situations involving individuals with mental health challenges.
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