Atlanta community members and Atlanta students march to protest the Georgia State Turner Field deal

Residents of Mechanicsville and other local Atlanta neighborhoods stand near a display calling out past developments in the city that has lead to gentrification. Photo by Will Anderson | The Signal
Residents of Mechanicsville and other local Atlanta neighborhoods stand near a display calling out past developments in the city that has lead to gentrification.
Photo by Will Anderson | The Signal

Mechanicsville community members held a rally outside of Turner Field in protest of the lack of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between Georgia State and the communities surrounding the stadium on the afternoon of April 1. At the end of the protest, members set up tents and spent the night in front of the former Turner Field stadium.

Georgia State purchased the Ted this past year in a deal with the City of Atlanta that allows for the stadium and several acres of land to be used as new housing and sporting facilities for the university.

This development has local residents concerned as they feel that not much of their say is going into the project. The signing of a CBA was proposed to Georgia State President Mark Becker, but was denied.

The cohort of residents and Atlanta students marched from Rosa L. Burney Park in Mechanicsville to the gates outside of Turner Field. The group gathered in front of the Northeast Gate where numerous community leaders came forward to speak to the assembled protesters.

Dozens of people ranging from children to elderly were in attendance, some from the surrounding communities and others from the greater Atlanta Metro area. Many held signs with messages such as “Gentrification is  Colonization” and “No CBA, No Deal”.

Deborah Arnold of Mechanicsville and May Helen Johnson of Peoplestown helped to organize the rally. As members of the Housing Justice League (HJL) and the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition (TFCBC), they wanted to ensure that the communities surrounding the stadium would not be swept away while Georgia State reaped their benefits.

“For the community benefit, we are stressing education, health, job opportunities, infrastructure, community building…inclusive of everybody who’s moving in but not for us to be placed out of our community. This is a cycle for us and we’re ready to break the cycle,” Johnson said.

Along with the residents, students from around the city joined in the rally. The Georgia State United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) made an appearance to aid the march, while dressed in reflective safety vests.

Asma Elhuni, a USAS student activist, spoke on behalf of the organization, affirming USAS’ promise to assist the community in their struggle.

“We will not allow Dr. Becker to displace residents on our watch,” Elhuni said.

Students from the Atlanta University Center also came to support the cause. Cylantra Dees, a student from Spelman College, was one of several volunteers passing out demographic surveys pertaining to city issues with Our Future Atlanta.

Through her efforts, Dees hoped for city officials to realize what problems their constituents face on a day-to-day basis.

“My plans here today are to get the representatives to recognize the needs of the people, rather than sit in the Ivory Tower as if they understand these things and then contradict them directly with action,” Dees said.

Community leaders called for the people to join their protest in a tent city out the gates of Turner Field with plans to stay as long as possible. Several members of the HJL chose to stay overnight including Arnold and Johnson.

“A home is a human right,” Arnold said. “I have a right to have an affordable home. I have a right to live in a decent area. I have a right to live where I am now, for years, and I want to continue to stay.”

 

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