One week after launching, ATL Homeless Union secures hotel room for members displaced by police sweeps

An image taken in downtown Atlanta preceding the police sweep of 40 unhoused citizens on Mon., July 12. After being displaced by APD from an encampment to make space for filming for a new show, DMZ, by Backlight Productions, unhoused persons and members of the ATL Homeless Union moved to another location while awaiting negotiations to secure hotel rooms and other basic needs for those impacted. We have confirmed that those who were displaced by the sweep are now safe in a hotel in a six-day long stay that is being paid for by Backlight Productions. Photo courtesy: Sol Underground, 2021.

ATLANTA — Last Monday, The Mainline reported the news of the newly-formed ATL Homeless Union and its demonstrations outside of City Hall that resulted in nine violent arrests by the Atlanta Police Department on July 5. One week after forming and launching the union, AHU reports it has successfully [organized] to secure hotel rooms for members displaced by police sweeps that have taken place since the City Hall arrests. Sources tell us 40 people were displaced throughout the sweep and approximately 15 people were in tents, which were taken from them by police.

On Sat., July 10, unhoused members of the ATL Homeless Union were notified that its encampment on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, which is downtown near the Georgia State Capitol, would be forcibly removed on the following Monday for the production of a new show entitled DMZ. Sources at AHU tell us that the show is being produced by Backlight Productions. Organizers with AHU have confirmed with us that those who were displaced are now safe in a hotel in the metro area following negotiations with Backlight.

On Mon., July 12, around noon, the APD forcibly removed unhoused citizens and members of AHU from the encampment, taking their shelters and some of their belongings. Sources go on to say that, Then, like they always do, they said that camping on the sidewalks is illegal. They sent social workers from the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District to offer to take us into shelters. Instead of providing real housing solutions, they want to hide us. They send the police to take our belongings, then act like heroes when they force us to choose between staying outside with nothing or going into a shelter.

According to an official press release from AHU, We were notified by the show\’s location manager, Kellie Morrison, that the show did not request for the city to displace us and that they were willing to work with us to come up with a solution. Our sources say that union members have been in contact with the studio and Morrison directly, who said they were willing to work with union members to come up with a solution that centered [their] needs.

Union members share that some only moved because police stole their tents, while most decided to not accept a shelter because shelters are dehumanizing and take away our freedom.

Shortly after the police displaced those in the encampment on Monday, organizers told us that Backlight Productions began working directly with them and affiliate group Sol Underground. Organizers requested the production company treat them like any group of housed people that their production may impact.

Union members and organizers worked together alongside location managers of Backlight Studios to secure the following:
• Six nights in a hotel for the 40 people who were displaced
• MARTA cards for members to commute from the hotel to work or tend to personal matters
• Replacement tents
• Catered food delivered to the hotel on the three nights they are filming, since most of the community\’s food is brought to them downtown throughout the week

Organizers state in the press release that Backlight Productions did what the city has yet to do: talk directly to us, hear our wants and needs, and help meet those needs without reservation. We know what is best for us. This partnership is a big step in the right direction. We hope this can be a model showing that everyone should treat us with the same dignity and autonomy that you would any other resident of a neighborhood that you are coming into as a guest. We also hope this is an inspiration to unhoused people across the country to show the power we have when we organize and work together.

To read the AHU\’s full demands, read our initial report here. We will continue to report on the union\’s movement as it develops.

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