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Statement issued by Council on Human Relations of Greater Atlanta, Inc.
5 Forsyth St., N.W., Atlanta, Georgia 523-1581
September 8, 1966
The Atlanta community - Negro and white - will be making a sad mistake
if it writes off Tuesday's disturbances in the southside as a plot of out-
side agitators, to be dealt with by replenishing the police department's
supply of tear gas.
Whatever the immediate causes, the incident was another in a
long series of warnings, that poverty and segregation breed conditions
which cannot be solved through the personal courage of the mayor or the
competence of the police to handle riots, neither of which has ever been
An editorial comment on Tuesday's incident says "the trouble followed
the damagogic pattern the country has come to recognize since this is no
longer one of those peculiar southern problems".
Unfortunately the pattern is tragically familiar - slums, unemployment,
poor schools, continued segregation and a police incident to spark it.
Tuesday's violence by whatever name is regrettable and the Council on
Human Relations of Greater Atlanta joins other citizens in the hope
that it will not happen again. We also hope
that the city will make full use of the courts to deal with any
individuals or groups in the community whom they know to be perpetrators
of violence but that at the same time it will intensify its efforts to
alleviate the social and physics] hlight which inevitahly results in
such unfortunate incidents,
This incident has been repeatedly described as a riot, There appear to
be as many different definitions of "riot" as there were spectators at
the scene on Tuesday, numbers of whom say that it was not a riot. There
was no looting, no shooting, no battles. Perhaps this was due to the
competence of the police in preventing a riot for which they deserve
the same praise as for stopping one. One newspaper reported that "by
4:20 p.m., the point at which the disturbance turned into a riot"..
without any explanation of what happened at 4:20 to turn the disturbance
into a riot. We urge the Police Committee of the Board of Alderman to
prepare and make public a cornplete report of events as they occured so that
they can be evaluated calmly and objectively. The question might he
raised as to whether it was necessary to shoot in a residential neighbor-
hood in themiddle of the afternoon to serve a warrant on a robbery
suspect. Any charge of police brutality should be carefully considered,
regardless of any brutality displayed towards the police. Whether
charges of police brutality prove to be accurate or not, the fear of it
is a real factor in the conditions which make for riots.
The community might well take this as an opportunity to examine and
evaluate the entire police reeruitment and training programs and the
capability of the city to perform the veyvired police function with the
present level of the police budget.
As much as we deplore violence in any circumstances, the Council on Human
Relations of Greater Atlanta does not accept the explanation that "SNCC
members were directly responsible for Tuesday's rioting".
SiCC members are not responsible for the conditions under which Atlanta
citizens live in the Summerhill and Mechanicsville area.
SICC members were not responsible for threat of rent strikes in that area
a year ago.
-SNCC members were not responsible for street demonstrations in the area
during the summer.
SYNCC members are not responsible for people living in houses which the
housing code finds unfit for human habitation.
SNCC members are not responsible for children attending school half a
day, in a building scheduled for repairs in the 1963 bond issue but which
SNCC members are not responsible for parking space for 4,000 cars in the
middle of an area which has no parks for children to play in (and to
whom the income derived from the stadium is very remote).
SiuCC members are not responsible for the recent incident in that same
neighborhood involving police officers and the wife of a ballteam
member, an incident which, rightly or wrongly, has been described by
"responsible Negroes" as a white wash of the police department.
SNCC members are not responsible for the policies of the Atlanta Honsing
Authority which makes public housing unavailable to many residents of
this and other areas in dire need of decent housing.
SNCC members are not responsible for the fact that there is no Negro on
the mayor's staff, or in any high position in a department of the city
SNCC members are not responsible for the increasing disparity between
employment opportunities for whites and Negroes and the fact that present
trainings programs are hopelessly inadequate to close this gap.
SNCC members are not responsible for maximum welfare grants which do not
permit families dependent upon them to live in decency and dignity.
SNCC members are not responsible for the fact that there is no public
agency in any of the governments of metropolitan Atlanta with a continuing
and professional responsibility in human relations and civil rights.
SNCC members are not responsible for the fact that the leadership of
metropolitan Atlanta has refused to acknowledge that these problem require
continuing, professional attention, but has acted only in response to crises
with emergency measures and has continually placed upon the aggrieved
groups the burden not only of raising the questions but also of suggesting
To ask residents of the southside now to list their grievances in the
first place contradicts the theory that "SNCC members are directly re-
sponsible", but more important it ignores the wearying succession of
meetings and surveys and petitions of residents of that area and of other
citizens during the past months.
Such a request ignores the authoritative report of The Community Council
of the Atlanta Area, Inc., on this and other blighted areas.
It ignores the efforts of the Council on Human Relations of Greater
Atlanta and neighborhood civic groups which resulted in the establishment
of the Southside Day Care Center and other programs.
It ignores the surveys and recomhendations ade by the various EOA citizen
committees, before and after the establishment of the HOA Neighborhood
It ignores the requests of neighborhood leaders before the Atlanta
Housing Authority and the Citizens Advisory Committee on Urban Renewal.
It ignores repeated statements before the Atlanta Board of Education by
parents of the area.
Ti ignores the findings and recommendations of the Commission on Crime
It ignores the continuous recommendations of the Atlanta Summit Leadershi p
Conference since its organization in 1963,
We make no claims that the solution to the problems are simple. The
solutions are complicated and costly. They require changes throughout
the entire metropolitan Atlanta area, and they do not lie in Summerhill
or in the SNCC office.
As each of us has had a part in creating the problems, so each of us must
bear a part of the burden of solving then.
Responsibility for dealing with these matters does not lie with "Negro
leadership" or with "white leadership". It lies with "community leader-
ship". These affairs are too complicated and too important to the future
of the entire community to be dealt with by eny racially ar ecunamianlly
They will continue to plague us all until we admit that we are all equally
involved. Only by our own defanlt will any outside group gain control
of the destiny of Atlanta.