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Anger in the community reached its boiling point after discoveries that the confederate-themed bar General Beauregard’s was allegedly serving a ““N*****ita” drink reignited public outcry against other discriminatory business practices. The Mayor and Commission had previously issued a resolution against discrimination and pledged to address the issue after a study released by the UGA Student Government Association documented more than 50 reports of discrimination downtown largely based on dress code.
Not waiting for the local government to take action, Mokah and Knowa Johnson, already well-known in the community as organizers of the Hip-Hop Awards, approached A4E for help in putting together a rally and march against these discriminatory practices. A4E gladly accepted, and through Mokah and Knowa’s efforts and A4E’s assistance, the march went as planned, with 400 Athenians marching through downtown on MLK Day.
This march began a year-long initiative for a civil rights committee supported by the local government and for comprehensive civil rights legislation.
Hundreds of Athens residents gathered outside city hall on this day to pray for Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, other victims of police violence and the 5 officers killed in Dallas. Speakers at the protest included organizers Mokah-Jasmine & Knowa Johnson, Ishues, Versatyle tha Wildchyld, Alvin Sheats (President of Athens NAACP), and Tahron Watkins.
As the protest was winding down, a memorial for the victims of police violence was constructed under the Spirit of Athens statue and a moment of silence for the five officers who lost their lives in this chain of events was also observed.
The group which organized this vigil, led by Mokah and Knowa Johnson, was still a loose coalition including A4E at this time (it was described as a “Black Lives Matter rally” in the Flagpole). Over the coming months, it would solidify as a separate organization and become known as the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement.
The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement marched from the UGA Arch to City Hall where they started singing on the steps outside. We could be heard inside as the monthly Mayor and Commission meeting was taking place. Demonstrators continued inside the building and refused to be quiet until Mayor Denson put the Bar Admittance Ordinance back on the agenda for November.Speakers indicated their thanks, but also that this is not enough. They demanded a more inclusive ordinance and also the creation of an Athens Civil Rights Committee.