#GunsDownWaterGunsUp: Atlanta Movement’s ‘Fun’ Efforts to Address Gun Violence Gets Twisted by Local Media, Activist Claims
(Atlanta Black Star) A group of Atlanta organizers are raising awareness about the issue of gun violence and leaving a few police officers dripping wet in the process.
Organizers with the #GunsDownWaterGunsUp movement held an event in Southwest Atlanta over the weekend, inviting locals to partake in a massive water gun fight aimed at uniting communities against gun violence. Videos from the wet n’ wild event flooded social media, and it was only a matter of time before the hashtag went viral. With the fanfare, however, came criticism from folks who failed to see positivity in the event and accused the participants of “attacking” police officers who’d joined in on the fun.
“People will always try to find the negative side of something positive,” a co-organizer who goes by @US2500 told Atlanta Black Star in an interview. “It’s all kid-friendly, and we’re just having fun.”
The organizer, who lives in Atlanta, banded with friends to launch the anti-gun violence movement, forming teams to stage neighborhood water gun fights. He said the effort is not only aimed at reducing violent interactions, but also improving community-police relations.
“I want the officers to know, we’re all people,” US2500 said. “We all have a sense of humor and we all want to have fun. Y’all don’t have to be afraid of us.”
The organizers have been having these water gun fights for about a month now. But authorities said it was one, in particular, this weekend that simply went “too far.”
Footage posted from the water fight at Perkerson Park on Saturday showed hundreds of locals pack the streets as they doused officers, and each other, with heaps of water. In one clip, residents zero in on one officer who tried scurrying from the oncoming streams of water.
“We’ve got a runner! We’ve got a runner!” someone behind the camera says.
Atlanta police said they only learned of the event a few days before it took place. In a statement, the department said officers needed help dispersing the crowd after what was expected to be a water fight for about 75 people quickly grew to more than 500. Parking along the street that fronts the park quickly fills on busy days at the park, and on this occasion traffic came to a near-standstill, impeding locals and emergency vehicles.
When police arrived to break things up, that’s when they got soaked.
“Before more officers were able to respond, approximately eight officers were on scene attempting to handle the crowd,” police said, adding that officers weren’t only drenched with water but had “rocks, coolers and other objects” hurled at them.
During the chaos, authorities said a woman suffered a medical emergency and while medics were attending to her, people proceeded to throw things at the first responders and even climb on the fire truck. Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Jeff Glazier said officers showed “tremendous restraint” as residents drenched them with water guns.
“Some of (the people there) were having fun and some of them weren’t,” he added, describing some people’s behavior as “reckless.”
Still, Glazier said he supports the message of the #GunsDownWaterGunsUp movement. APD wrote that, “While we appreciate such efforts, acts such as tying up traffic, damaging property and assaulting police officers and first responders are not acceptable. Saturday’s event quickly grew beyond entertainment and became a safety hazard.”
In the end, no arrests were made and no officers were hurt, according to police. Authorities, with the help of the organizers, were able to shut down the event without incident. US2500 reiterated the intentions of the event and criticized local media for turning it into something negative. The Atlanta branch of the NAACP even stepped in to defend the movement against critics.
“This article is a mischaracterization of the event and the plans for future police,” the organization wrote in response to a piece published by Atlanta station WSB-TV. “No one was ‘attacking’ law enforcement with water guns.”
“It was a community event to stop the violence,” the NAACP added, noting that the next one would have “community and law enforcement together.