We’ve all seen the sympathetic saturation media coverage of the Occupy “movement” these last few weeks. What started as ten or twenty slackers protesting Wall Street, capitalism and people they non-specifically identify at “the 1%” has slowly grown and spread to various cities across the country and overseas. While it’s a movement largely without specific grievances, goals or demands, it’s been mostly harmless, if you overlook inconveniences such as petty theft, public defecation and the occasional rape here and there. Complaints from neighboring businesses and residents haven’t been enough to prompt otherwise-supportive, linguine-spined mayors to shut down the squatters’ encampments in most cities. Until, that is, someone showed up with a legally carried gun…
Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, was totally down with the rabble in Woodruff Park. Hell, he even took the time out of his busy schedule to march with them, expressing solidarity with the 99 percenters. It’s hard to pass up a chance for a juicy photo op with the lumpen proletariat. Anyway, he didn’t seem to have any trouble footing the bill for increased police coverage. That is, until one unidentified man decided to walk through the park with an AK slung over his shoulder.
Scores of Atlanta police officers moved in overnight — some clad in riot gear, some on horseback, all under orders to clear the park of protesters. The order came from Mayor Kasim Reed, who says the last straw was a man walking around Woodruff Park Tuesday afternoon carrying an assault rifle.
11Alive’s Jaye Watson spoke to the man, who declined to identify himself. “(The gun is) a symbol of the last line of resistance against a government that’s going to try to push people out because of their ideals,” he said. The man told Watson the weapon was a semi-automatic version of the AK-47. Such weapons are legal in Georgia.
Reed says the man was seen near former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who was in the park at the same time Tuesday. Reed says the presence of the assault rifle appeared to represent a more aggressive outlook among some of those encamped at Woodruff Park. So Reed ordered the overnight arrests and barricade of the park.
Reed had no problem with a bunch of leftists and anarchists camping out in one of his city’s parks, banging drums and protesting banks, capitalism, Wall Street or other forms of conventional wealth creation and productivity. But let one law-abiding individual walk by with a legally owned and carried rifle and the picture changed entirely.
“By every measure, from the way they treated people from my administration, to things that they said on camera, to having a man with an AK47 accompany a leader that came to a press conference that I met with, all put us on a trajectory toward something bad,” Reed said.
The protestors – those conducting themselves peacefully and obeying local laws – had every right to be there demonstrating and protesting whatever their hearts desire. Reed, however, couldn’t manage to square the group’s first amendment rights with the equally valid second amendment rights of one man. Go figure.