Since 2014, Athens for Everyone has been committed to grassroots organizing through state and local advocacy advancing social and economic justice. Over the last six years we have shifted our understanding about issues of poverty, climate change and inequality in Athens as inherently linked to the cultural and systemic effects of centuries of white supremacy. We believe that with time and perseverance all of us can change these harmful systems.
Athens for Everyone intends to address these harms by continuing to support the self-determination of Athens’ communities of color, promoting progressive politics, working in anti-racist education and building coalitions. And we need each and every one of you to do it.
As an organization with, at present, a largely white membership base who occupy diverse intersections of privileges and life experiences, we’re interested in investing our time and resources to support the efforts already underway by the communities most impacted by racist, sexist, classist and ableist policymaking. The platform items proposed below reflect our renewed commitment to:
- Coalition-building. We want to deepen our relationships with other local organizations and follow the leadership of communities most directly impacted by issues like the ones listed below. We’ve historically been great at local policy research and advocacy, so we want to lend these skills to the social change efforts of local partner organizations who think they could be useful to the cause.
- Political education. We want to harness the skills and passions of our membership to advance creative ways to engage the public on these issues, on the policymaking process, on electoral issues and on the workings of local government and advocacy.
2020 Local Platform
Collaborate with the Economic Justice Coalition to advocate for improving and sustaining the Athens-Clarke County Prosperity Package
In 2019, the Athens-Clarke County government set aside $4 million for a “Prosperity Package” with the general goal of alleviating poverty in Athens. Most of this money has yet to be assigned to specific projects. A4E will collaborate with community partners like EJC to advocate for work on projects like the baby bonds proposal spearheaded by community advocate Broderick Flanigan. In addition, we will advocate for this to be an annual budget item so that the “Prosperity Package” may grow into a useful means of combating poverty in Athens.
Transform EMS and 911 dispatch call center to be publicly run
Thanks to the efforts of dedicated A4E members Sam Rafal and Bob Gadd, we know that National EMS here in Athens is a shady for-profit organization putting profits before people. That is why A4E along with ACCPD has recommended that we switch to a central communication center to take over dispatching for all 911 calls. We also want to switch from private EMS to public. We could have emergency medical services through the fire department. Let’s put people first.
Decriminalize marijuana possession in Athens
Decriminalizing marijuana is a racial justice issue. We know that the drug policies and anti-crime bills of this country were really methods of locking away thousands of black and brown people every year for decades. The Athens-Clarke County government should pass and the solicitor general should uphold a parallel ordinance allowing police officers to charge people possessing marijuana with a lesser civil penalty rather than the much more serious charges prescribed by state law.
Invest in political education on labor and worker empowerment and partner with the Economic Justice Coalition (EJC) and the United Campus Workers of Georgia (UCWGA) to advocate for the creation of a workers' center
Perhaps one of the most important issues today is workers’ rights. People are working for starvation wages while owners and bosses get obscenely rich. Athens has a 38% poverty and only 4% unemployment, which is a stark reminder of how unjust the current economic system is. Our labor practices are in serious need of an overhaul, and the best way to do that is to support workers and build popular support for labor justice.
Stand with Students for Justice in Palestine by committing to Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a Palestinian-led movement, in their struggle for justice in Palestine
This movement uses nonviolent means to pressure the state of Israel to comply with international law. Their three main demands are: 1) Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall. 2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. 3) Respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Support efforts to recognize and redress the legacy of urban renewal in Athens
Thanks to the advocacy and outreach efforts of impacted residents and
the Linnentown Project, we know that Black families were run out of their Linnentown neighborhood in the 1960s so that UGA could construct luxury dormitories. Both the City of Athens and the University of Georgia were responsible for pushing these families out of their homes. So, they should be held accountable for participating in and profiting off of the national project of “urban renewal” that displaced and disenfranchised residents of color across the country. This is a prime example of institutionalized white supremacy, and we fully support the Linnentown Project’s demands for recognition and redress for the residents, many of whom still live in Athens today, who were impacted by urban renewal.
Support Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens (DIA) and the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition (AIRC) in efforts to protect undocumented and migrant communities
People are not illegal. No one deserves to be locked in a cage, deported, or torn away from their family just because they were looking for a better life. DIA and AIRC are two wonderful local organizations that work with vulnerable undocumented and immigrant populations, and we’ll follow their leadership as to how we can support this important and necessary advocacy.
Continue to work with Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM), Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition (AIRC) and the Racial Justice Task Force at Oconee United Methodist Church to demand the creation of a Community Police Accountability Board
We’ll continue the collaborative effort to advocate for the Athens Clarke-County Unified Government to establish a Community Police Ac- countability Board. This board would serve as an important mechanism for the community oversight of the police department, adding a necessary layer of review. The board should comprise community members who represent populations most impacted by contact with the criminal-legal system, it should have substantive decision-making power and budgetary allocation, and it should operate openly and transparently with the public.
Continue to support the efforts of 100% Athens Renewable Energy Initiative in their mission to ensure a just and equitable transition to 100% clean renewable energy in a way that prioritizes and anticipates the needs of marginalized members of our community
A just and equitable transition to 100% clean renewable energy is a broad and transformational endeavor that requires infrastructural, economic and social changes created for and by our community. Equity in the context of climate justice means a redistribution of resources in a way that is fair for all communities that must adapt to climate change; and equitable strategies must be developed to simultaneously redresses historical inequities that have left marginalized communities most vulnerable to climate change effects and prepares the community as a whole to transition to climate readiness and a clean renewable economy.
We live in a fundamentally unequal society and world. That inequality takes shape along lines of economic distribution, race, gender, and national origin, among many others. It is not that way by accident or by some law of nature, but rather has been deliberately structured to benefit those who make the rules. Many forms of this inequality are on stark display in Athens.
Our 38% poverty rate ranks as the nation’s worst in a county with more than 100,000 residents. Affluent students see our city as a four-year playground and our society builds lazy rivers in their apartment complexes, while low-income students are excluded from help paying for early learning for their children. The profits created by the labor of our residents, who make poverty wages as low as $7.25/hour, enrich our society’s already rich ownership class, most of whom live far from Athens-Clarke County. Sexual assault forever changes the lives of too many women, who are too often disbelieved or blamed. Black Athenians are four times more likely to end up incarcerated for the same crimes that result in a slap on white wrists. Other neighbors face traffic stops with invented pretexts, knowing that they were targeted for driving while Latino. Undocumented Athenians of all origins face the threat of being ripped away from their homes and families in a disorienting ICE raid at 5 am. And in the time of Trump and Republican control, each of these injustices looks to become more acute.
And so we are called to act, as the oppressed, as allies–so often as both–and as a community. The forces of societal progress have overcome monstrous, complex systems of oppression before. We march, write, and organize in the steps of those who resisted monarchy to build a republic, who resisted slavery to win freedom, who struck against the capitalists to win the 8-hour work day, who fought patriarchy to win universal suffrage, who rejected silent suffering to win Social Security, who resisted segregation to win equality before the law, who stood up against the polluters to win clean air, and so many more.
When we fight, we win. The members of Athens for Everyone stand with our allies in this community, around the United States, and throughout the world, committed to do the work we know it takes to add new victories to the rich history of progress, to resist enduring systems of oppression and the menace of Trump, to build on the accomplishments of those who came before us in the struggle and to carve out new avenues for human emancipation. Our feet are firmly planted in this Georgian soil, and the sky’s the limit for what we can accomplish together.