Pride writes demand letter to Mayor Bottoms about Atlanta police

On the day of its vigil to honor black lives, Atlanta Pride Committee released a pledge against police brutality and a letter of demands to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for police reform.

The Pride Board resolved during a virtual meeting last week to create a strategic plan for the organization to focus on social and racial justice, human rights and equality. It was co-written by Atlanta Pride Executive Director Jamie Fergerson and Board Chair Wil Bryant.

Earlier this month, Bryan also penned the committee’s pledge to continue including racial justice in its mission. At the same time, Pride promoted a save-the-date for a socially distanced Black Lives Matter Vigil on June 25 at 8:30 p.m. Details on that event were posted Wednesday, and it now takes place online.

The new resolution came alongside an open letter to the mayor signed by the entire Atlanta Pride board.

“We view your recent Administrative Orders as another step in the direction towards ending injustice in policing while realizing that true change will require much more. We realize that systemic problems require systemic and sweeping changes,” the letter states. “We are adding our voices to demand change to end injustice and to bring equity and opportunity for Black lives.”

With the letter came an offer for Fergerson to meet with Bottoms to discuss it. It also came with nine areas of demand for action from the mayor, from training and demilitarizing the police department to building better relationships between officials, residents and police unions. The letter also demands enactment of the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign policies to de-escalate police violence.

On Friday, Project Q Atlanta's Matt Hennie will host an online discussion Can Atlanta Police really be reformed? with LGBTQ voices. Scheduled guests are Atlanta City Council Member Antonio Brown, Eagle Raid lawyer Dan Grossman, and Black Lives Matter organizer Xochitl Bervera. Register free here to join live and ask questions to the panel. 

The full text of the demand letter, and images of the Atlanta Pride resolution:

Mayor Bottoms:

Over the last several years, it has been a priority for The Atlanta Pride Committee, Inc. to move towards positive change in our relationship with the Atlanta Police Department as we have centered our work around social justice and racial equity. We understand that partnerships take investments, and we are grateful for the changes we have been able to make regarding our Annual Festival and Parade including working with our Coordinator to hand select Officers who are a good fit for our event, demilitarizing Officers on the Festival grounds, creating a welcoming atmosphere to attendees and prioritizing violent crime and safety concerns over minor offenses, being a safe space for undocumented members of the community, minimizing unnecessary contact with attendees, and engaging with attendees in respectful and culturally appropriate interactions.

We value the commitments made to centering LGBTQ+ voices by the creation of the Mayor's LGBTQ Advisory Board, the LGBTQ Pride Receptions, the continued support for the Atlanta Police Department LGBTQ Liaisons, and non-discrimination ordinances that have been enacted to protect the citizens of the City of Atlanta.

We are grateful for the relationships that we have built and developed with you, the City Council, and various City Officials as well as the Atlanta Police Department. This access and privilege demands that we speak up for change as we fight for social justice.

We view your recent Administrative Orders as another step in the direction towards ending injustice in policing while realizing that true change will require much more. We realize that systemic problems require systemic and sweeping changes. Our advocacy is not against specific individuals, but towards a system that has historically devalued Black lives. Cash bail and the plan to transform the City of Atlanta Jail into a Center for Equity and Justice were led by community voices demanding change — we are adding our voices to demand change to end injustice and to bring equity and opportunity for Black lives.

We are calling for reformation and transformation and support the following policies to move our communities forward:

Community Building. The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department have a responsibility to strength our communities, rebuild broken systems, and earn the trust of its citizens through significant community building endeavors. Police Officers should be seen as an asset to citizens, but that will require a greater commitment to serve and build personal relationships within the communities they protect.

Community Investments. We know that citizens of many of Atlanta’s neighborhoods face significant, multi-faceted hardship with limited access to opportunities and that their voices are often unheard. To create lasting change, investments must be made in community programs and centers, health centers, affordable housing, and psychosocial services. Employment and educational opportunities have the greatest capacity to lift people out of poverty and to reduce crime, so it is incumbent upon our leaders to redouble their commitments to these important investments. When we make these investments a priority, community services can be provided by professional who are best equipped for each situation and police services can be reserved for issues related to true public safety.

Training. Officers should have extensive training in de-escalation techniques and must be required to exhaust all opportunities to de-escalate each and every situation using community resources and non-lethal means. Community members should lead the creation of locally relevant and culturally competent training programs to ensure that Officers can serve the unique needs of the communities they serve.

Demilitarization. Police Officers should be guardians — not warriors. Police departments should not possess tools of war or have the appearance of occupying forces. 

8 Can’t Wait. The City of Atlanta should immediately enact and implement the remaining changes suggested by the 8 Can’t Wait Campaign.

Citizen Review Boards. The City of Atlanta must empower and revitalize Citizen Review Boards to conduct true oversight and provide guidance to best serve their needs. 

Accountability. Officers should be required to wear body cameras in all interactions with the public and face disciplinary actions for noncompliance. Citizens should have access to the disciplinary files and records of Officers who serve. When Officers fail the high standards that communities demand, they must be held accountable and removed if a pattern emerges. The City of Atlanta must institute appropriate early-warning systems to ensure that only the best Officers serve our communities.

Police Unions. We support the rights of people to organize including Police Officers, but there has been a history of unions stifling change demanded by citizens. Police Unions must work together with communities to affect change and increase transparency by releasing their contracts to the public.

Future Forward. Many street names, memorials, and public properties within Atlanta hold names that conjure painful memories of racial injustice and discrimination to citizens. The City of Atlanta has made strides on creating change, but must continue to rename, remove, and/or provide appropriate context for these painful reminders.

Working Together. Leaders across municipalities, counties, and the State of Georgia must work together to bring about change. This work should target criminal reforms starting with removing the Georgia Citizen’s Arrest Statue and banning no-knock raids.

The Atlanta Pride Committee, Inc. is more than a Festival and Parade — we are a social justice organization forged in the queer liberation movement. We have seen hard fought wins and advancements for LGBTQ+ individuals, but we will not rest until every person can truly realize their human and civil rights. We demand equitable treatment and opportunity for all persons. Equal justice under the law must be afforded to each person regardless of who they are, how they identify, or the people they choose to love. 

Black lives matter — we say this with conviction and without equivocation. Our organization has recommitted itself to direct advocacy work, voter registration, racial justice, lobbying, and holding our leaders accountable to create an equitable and brighter future. We understand the fight for justice is not a fleeting mission, but a long-term commitment to arduous work. We stand ready for this challenge and will not be deterred by setbacks or when challenges appear. 

We look forward to scheduling a meeting with you in the coming days to further this conversation and to move forward the important work that we can do together. We also ask that as you stand up and appoint LGBTQ+ representatives to advisory and community-led boards, along with Black members and other members of underrepresented communities, so that our voices are represented in these groups.

For scheduling, please contact our Executive Director, Jamie Fergerson, at 404/382.7588 or via email at [email protected]

 

Wil Bryant, Chair, Board of Directors

Jamie Fergerson, Executive Director

Justin Gavette-Boring, Vice Chair, Board of Director

Trisha Clymore, Treasurer, Board of Directors

Traci Romero, Secretary, Board of Directors

Jane Acuff, Member-At-Large, Board of Directors

Earl Fields, Chair, Governance Committee

Glen Paul Freedman, Chair, Public Policy and Advocacy Committee

Emily Gettelfinger, Member-At-Large, Board of Directors

Sam Lim, Chair, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

Emily Porter, Chair, Strategic Planning and Vision Committee

Elaine Marie Serrano, Chair, Nominating and Review Committee

Daniel Wilkerson, Member-At-Large, Board of Director