A Black Lives Matter protest had about 50 people block various Lenox Square Mall driveways and Peachtree Road Sept. 24 while calling for a boycott in response to controversial police killings of black men and boys.
While dubbed “ATL Silent Protest,” the 4.5-hour event was vocal most of the time, with protesters chanting such slogans as “Hands up, don’t shoot” and leaders using bullhorns. However, many protesters also wore strips of tape over their mouths with various slogans written on them. There were no arrests, according to Atlanta Police Lt. Anthony Singh, who led a police presence on the scene.
The protest was led by “Sir Maejor” Page of Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta, joined by the DeKalb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference chapter. Explaining the Buckhead location, he said white police officers involved in controversial killings of black people often also protect or shop in such wealthy areas. Such police, he said, “murder us and slaughter us through the streets of our neighborhood and then they run back here to Buckhead, where they continue business as usual.”
“This is a boycott,” he said. “No longer will Macy’s, no longer will Lenox…profit off of our suffrage. No longer can they get another black dollar off of our pain.”
Sir Maejor is a controversial actor/model/activist who was disavowed by other, larger Black Lives Matter groups in the wake of a major protest in July that also took place in Buckhead.
That July protest secured other Black Lives Matter a City Hall meeting with Mayor Kasim Reed that collapsed in dissent, but Sir Maejor also attended and joined a mayoral press conference. Other activists went public about their earlier break with Sir Maejor on LGBT activism and personal issues, and media reports revealed his prior arrests on charges of impersonating police officers.
At the ATL Silent Protest, Sir Maejor also addressed those controversies. Clad in a jacket customized with his name and rank as his group’s president, he criticized other activists as “cliques” and “protesters for a day,” and condemned Fox 5 for its reporting on his arrests.
“He’s trying to make it about himself,” one fellow protester remarked. A more positive reaction came later in the day from Nathan Knight, president of the DeKalb SCLC, who said his is mentoring Sir Maejor. “He’s a great guy and he’s a great leader,” Knight said.
In an interview, Sir Maejor said his alleged police impersonations “never happened” and that they were false arrests conducted in part to stop him from participating in previous protests because “I’m a nuisance to law enforcement.” As for the controversial mayoral meeting and the city’s response to the July protest’s demands, Sir Maejor said, “I wasn’t there to endorse the mayor…I think the mayor could do more” on such issues as use of military gear and that he’s planning a press conference to elaborate.
The ATL Silent Protest was part of a national protest response to the latest controversial killings of black men and boys by police officers, including Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla.; Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio; and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C. It was the latest of several Black Lives Matter protests to target Buckhead in general and Lenox Square Mall in particular as wealthy, majority-white business centers.
The ATL Silent Protest took about an hour to start marching, as protesters created signs with such sayings as, “We dream in black.” One protester carried a boycott-oriented sign reading, “Black out: Don’t shop here.”
Sir Maejor said the protesters originally intended to enter the mall, but security found out and said that would not be allowed. Instead, protesters marched along Lenox and Peachtree roads. At different times, they blocked three different mall driveways, including the main Peachtree entrance, by sitting on the pavement. They also briefly blocked Peachtree by sitting or lying in the road.
Police officers appeared to be avoiding arrests except as a last resort, and Singh and Sir Maejor repeatedly negotiated street-blocking terms. Those discussions sometimes had tension, as Sir Maejor at one point noted he knows the mayor and Singh replied that it wouldn’t matter if he knew the president.
Many drivers honked or raised fists in support of the protesters, while some called out in opposition with such phrases as “All lives matter.” On the edges of the protest, some passers-by and protesters discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and such related issues as the war on drugs. A trio of young teens passing by briefly joined the protest, raising their fists and repeating a boycott chant of “black dollars matter.”
The protesters moved on to Atlanta’s Downtown area for a second phase of the ATL Silent Protest. Downtown also saw another, larger Black Lives Matter protest march the previous night.