Atlanta police nix ‘hate shields’ at Atlanta Pride

The Atlanta Police Department will not allow an Atlanta artist’s mobile soundproof walls to be used to muffle anti-LGBTQ protesters during Atlanta Pride weekend.

But artist Matthew Terrell and the head of the Atlanta Pride Committee said they had not been notified about the change in plans and they’re trying to get clarity on the matter. The City of Atlanta and Fulton County funded Terrell’s “Hate Shield” project.

Atlanta police made the announcement on Wednesday. 

“After speaking with the Atlanta Pride Committee about the possibility of implementing an instrument being called the ‘hate shield,’ we have collectively agreed not to move forward with the utilization of this device,” Investigator James White told Project Q Atlanta in a statement. “We will be actively monitoring protestors, as we have in years past, to ensure the safety of all attending the celebrations and festivities occurring over the weekend.”

But the Atlanta Pride Committee had not been consulted, according to Executive Director Jamie Fergerson.

“I do not know anything about APD pulling them,” she texted Project Q on Thursday. “I just reached out to my contact. Matthew was just asking me for a place to store them this afternoon.”

The news took Terrell by surprise as well.

“They haven’t told me that at all,” he told Project Q. “They seemed to be on board with it.”

Police wouldn’t say what specifically was wrong with the shields.

“It's not really a matter of not liking the hate shields, per se,” Carlos Campos, APD’s public affairs director, told Project Q. “We have been dealing effectively with these same protestors for several years now. We know who they are and believe the tactics that we use have worked to keep event participants safe.”

The Hate Shield project has been years in the making. Terrell recorded video footage and recorded decibel levels of the protesters at Atlanta Pride to illustrate how far the sound of their taunts travel. The Fulton County Arts & Culture Offfice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ Office of Cultural Affairs gave him a $6,000 grant to create the shields, which reduce the decibel level by 25 percent, according to Terrell.

Terrell and several volunteers had planned on being stationed with the shields in front of protesters at the 14th Street Gate at Piedmont Park on Saturday.

UPDATE | The hate shields will now be allowed outside the park on Saturday, according to Fergerson, Terrell and APD.

“Everything is sorted out with APD," Fergerson texted Project Q. "There was a misunderstanding about what Matthew’s plans were.”

APD thought the shields would be used in the parade on Sunday, according to Terrell.

“Everything got figured out. The hate shield is on for Saturday, which was the original intention," he told Project Q. "We all knew that it was scheduled for Saturday and that whole statement was them thinking [the hate shields were] going to be in the parade."

Campos confirmed that the shields will be allowed.

 

"We have no plans to interfere with any hate shields as long as they are deployed lawfully — generally meaning, not blocking the street or a sidewalk," he told Project Q.