The Buckhead Community Improvement District staff and board of directors said in a June 24 newsletter it “supports the Black Lives Matter movement” — a notable declaration from some of Atlanta’s most powerful figures in real estate and policing.

The statement said the CID “stands in solidarity with peaceful protesters in Atlanta, across the country and around the globe who are pushing for an end to racial injustice.”

The CID is a self-taxing group of commercial property owners in the central business area who pay for transportation, public safety and beautification programs, including expansions of the Atlanta Police Department surveillance camera network and private police patrols.

Its all-White board of directors includes City Councilmember Howard Shook and Robin Loudermilk, an influential developer who chairs the board of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which provides support to the Atlanta Police Department. Also on the board are representatives of major companies that own some properties damaged in looting that followed the first night of largely peaceful George Floyd protests in Downtown Atlanta last month. They include Robin Suggs, general manager of the Phipps Plaza mall, which was infamously looted, and Lenox Square mall, which was fortified by police and the National Guard.

Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District and incoming president of the Buckhead Coalition.

Executive Director Jim Durrett, who heads the CID’s currently all-White staff, said in an email that no specific changes in the way the group does business are yet planned.

“I can’t visualize yet how the CID’s work might change, but we felt compelled to make a statement, to say that we accept responsibility for doing our part to address the existence and the effects of systemic racism in our society,” Durrett said. “I intend to be sure that my staff and I, and our boards, begin with a personal commitment to anti-racism, that we monitor our behaviors and hold each other accountable. “

Also on June 24, Durrett was announced as the new president of the Buckhead Coalition, another influential community organization, with the two groups to operate with merged staffs.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which calls for reforms to halt police and vigilante killings of black people, began as a social media campaign after the 2013 acquittal verdict of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. It gained prominence in the nationwide protests that followed the 2014 police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. The movement has been a prominent part of the current national protests that followed last month’s police killing of Floyd in Minnesota.

The CID’s full statement reads as follows and was delivered under the headline, “Buckhead CID Staff and Board of Directors Supports the Black Lives Matter Movement”:

“The Buckhead Community Improvement District stands in solidarity with peaceful protesters in Atlanta, across the country and around the globe who are pushing for an end to racial injustice.

“Since our establishment almost 21 years ago, we have worked to create and maintain a safe, accessible and livable urban environment for all. Our mission will not waiver.

“But it’s clear that we have a long way to go. We don’t know the exact path forward, but we know that it requires listening to Black and Brown voices and others among us who have been marginalized. All of us can do better, and all of us must do better — together.”

Buckhead CID

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.