Chamblee54

The Battle Of Fair Street Bottom

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on June 5, 2018


Stacey Abrams appeared on Democracy Now. “So, I was a student at Spelman. I was a freshman. It was 1992, April. And Spelman College, the Atlanta University Center (AUC,) which is a consortium of black colleges, used to sit right outside some of the oldest housing developments in Georgia. And so, after the Rodney King verdict was announced, there were riots in Los Angeles, but there were also small riots in Georgia, including in that area. The reaction from the mayor was to actually cordon off that entire community, both the universities and the housing developments and then surrounding neighborhoods. And then they tear-gassed us. I was very irate, and I organized a group of students at my college to call the television stations, who were misreporting what was happening. At a certain point, they asked who was calling, because we were tying up their phone lines. And I just told my friends, “Tell them you’re me.”

So, Stacey Abrams was calling multiple lines in multiple television stations.Eventually, the television stations decided to do a simulcast, bringing everyone together—and I was invited as the person who was one of the rabble-rousers—to come and talk to the leadership of Atlanta about what had happened and about why we were angry, about why young people were outraged. We weren’t rioting at the school, but we understood those who were angry and who felt oppressed and felt ignored. I communicated that, and at this event, Maynard Jackson was there. He disagreed with me, disagreed with my characterization of the city’s overreaction. And I told him he wasn’t doing enough for young people. He won the argument, because he was better prepared.”

PG was in the Healy Building on April 30, 1992. He was just happy to get home in one piece that day, and did not watch any news reports. He vaguely recalls hearing something about an incident at AUC. After PG heard this statement by Miss Abrams, hew went to Mr. Google for information. There are at least two versions of that incident, which more or less tell the story. One is the Atlanta Voice, LOOKING BACK: ‘No Justice, No Peace’: The battle of Fair Street Bottom, 20 plus years later. Another is a lawsuit filed by the owners of a neighborhood grocery store, Park v. City of Atlanta.

After the Rodney King verdict, in California, students at AUC led a march from the school to downtown. At some point, the march degenerated into a riot. A grocery store on Fair Street was looted. Police were called in, and tear gas was used.

The Atlanta Voice “The Korean-owned grocery store located in Atlanta’s Fair Street Bottom closed early in anticipation of trouble. And like storm clouds on the horizon trouble showed up as expected. The garage-style steel door, typical of many small businesses in economically depressed communities around the nation, however, was not enough to stop the looters from breaking the lock and prying the door up just enough to crawl under and loot the establishment. The wife of the owner pleaded with Atlanta Police who were clad in riot gear as they stood quietly by and watched. No officer responded to her crying plead to stop the looters. The officers had more important orders: Don’t let the looters go into downtown; keep them in the Bottom. The police finally dispersed the looters with tear gas after they tried to set fire to the building. The liquor store next to the 5 Star Grocery was protected from the looters. This contained riot wasn’t going to be fuel by alcohol. …

Twenty-six years ago, Fair Street Bottom was located in the heart of one of Atlanta’s notorious neighborhoods just east of the Atlanta University Center. It was called the Bottom because Fair Street running east to west from Northside Drive dips downwards before it levels off again as it passes Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. The Bottom was in the heart of one of the city’s oldest public housing communities – John Hope Homes. With walking distance to the west near Spelman College was another housing project – University Homes. Fenced in green lots now occupy the space with John Hope Homes once sat. They were torn down in the 1990s as part of the Atlanta Housing Authority’s massive plan to re-invent public housing. University Homes was torn down and re-built into a mixed-income housing complex. Most of Atlanta missed the “Battle of Fair Street Bottom” unless they read or watch the news. The distance never spread beyond those few blocks …

I don’t remember where the phone call came from, but we were informed that some of the marchers were causing damage as they were marching back to the campus. Unfortunate for the marchers some of the young men and high school students joined the march as they passed through John Hope Homes. … By the time, I got to the Atlanta University Center, the student organizers had lost control of the march. Those marches who had a taste of destruction downtown were hell-bent on continuing. The Korean-owned 5 Star Supermarket became the focus of the headless mob, as did a few park police cars that were either turned over or set on fire. After a few hours, and quite a bit of tear gas, the Atlanta Police quelled the disturbance before nightfall. Students retreated back to their dorms and the young looters retreated back to their neighborhoods.”

The legal opinion “This action stems from one of the despicable acts of mob violence which occurred in the tumult of the riots in Atlanta, Georgia, in the wake of the Rodney King verdict… On April 29, 1992, … students from the Atlanta University Center began an impromptu march to the Richard B. Russell Federal Building and then to the State Capitol Building. The first day’s demonstrations ended at the State Capitol after 2 a.m. The students, presumably tired but clearly still agitated, returned to the Atlanta University Center.

The businesses of the Plaintiffs were to become a focus of the disorder on the second day of the riots. Sang S. Park and Hi Soon Park owned and operated Five Star Supermarket, a grocery business located at 653 Fair Street, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia. Plaintiffs Kwang Jun No and Jin Soon No owned and operated Star Liquor Store, a package store located next door at 661 Fair Street, S.W. Both Korean-American-owned businesses were located in a small commercial area in the immediate vicinity of four historically black universities: Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and Morris Brown College (“the Atlanta University Center”). Plaintiffs’ stores were the only non-black-owned businesses within that area.

In the afternoon of April 30, 1992, a group of students swarmed off the campuses of the Atlanta University Center. A segment of the crowd headed to the downtown business district, where they looted and attacked white pedestrians. A gang of students stopped to shout racial epithets and break the windows of both the Five Star Supermarket and the Five Star Liquor Store. Glenn Park, who is the son of Plaintiffs, was working at the store; he relayed these events to a police officer.

On the following day around 1:30 or 2:00 p.m., students at the Atlanta University Center began to throw projectiles from windows of a dormitory at the corner of Brawley Avenue and Fair Street, which is located about three blocks from Plaintiffs’ stores. A police S.W.A.T. team used tear gas to disperse these students. … The Plaintiffs decided to close their stores and congregate in an upstairs apartment within the Five Star Supermarket as nearby police officers observed. … By 6:45 p.m., … members of the crowd began throwing rocks and breaking into Five Star Liquor Store. From his position in the police helicopter, Officer S.F. Patterson advised other officers over TAC I radio that approximately fifty to seventy-five students were vandalizing a small business at Elm and Fair.

… the dispatcher reported a call originating from around the Fair and Roach intersection indicating that about fifty college students were assaulting a subject there at 6:45 p.m. During the next ten to twenty minutes, the mob gained entry to the liquor store, removed cases of alcoholic beverages, and broke into the supermarket. Around 7:15 p.m., a dispatcher actually called the Plaintiffs at the request of Major Mock and Chief Bell in order to advise them to remain out of sight of the crowd below. Within minutes of the last phone conversation with 911, the mob discovered Plaintiffs and chased them onto the roof of the grocery store … Plaintiffs barricaded the door onto the roof, but were assaulted by the crowd on the street who threw bricks, rocks, stones, and items stolen from their own store, hitting Mrs. Park, and shouted racial epithets at the Plaintiffs. …

On May 4, 1992, Mayor Jackson and Chief Bell participated in another press conference in which they addressed the previous days’ events and apologized to the Korean community, but also emphasized how none of the Atlanta University students were injured. Mayor Jackson also recognized the black community’s long-standing resentment of the Korean business community and recommended that a symbolic gesture be taken such as a collection for the destroyed businesses.”

Former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell has another perspective. “Bell was out of town the first night riots erupted in Atlanta on April 30, 1992. He said more than 20 police officers were injured that day when he got a call from the Mayor. “First thing I heard was Mayor Maynard Jackson’s voice in my ear saying ‘they’re tearing up your town,'” … he called the FBI who flew him back to Atlanta. He arrived the next day on May 1, 1992 at around lunch time at took charge of handling the riots. He did not want to repeat what happened the day before when officers confronted protestors face to face. “I am not a proponent of those confrontations, police versus the community.” Bell said he ordered officers out of the riot zone while he went up in a helicopter along with the Georgia State Patrol and flew over the protestors and dropped tear gas to disperse the crowd. “And I pointed out the places that I wanted him to tear gas, There was no one for them to throw the tear gas back to because the police weren’t there.” By 10PM that night the crowd dispersed, the riots ended, and the city began cleaning up.”

Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

8 Responses

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  1. Politically Relevant | Chamblee54 said, on July 26, 2018 at 11:22 am

    […] expressed support of the mob shouting down Stacey Evans. Miss Abrams also played a role in the 1992 riots, after the Rodney King verdict was announced. Brian Kemp has a lot of shortcomings, and would […]

  2. […] flag had the Confederate battle flag embedded. People were asking the legislature to change that. Miss Abrams was a student activist. The NYT article sparked a twitter dogpile, about the motives of the Georgia legislature in 1956. […]

  3. […] Surfaces on Eve of Debate ~ What Stacey Abrams said about burning the Georgia flag in 1992 ~ The Battle Of Fair Street Bottom ~ John Sammons Bell ~ 2000, ~ state flag talk ~ Israel lobby wants Saudis to get away with […]

  4. […] the minute we do that we are no better than those who tell people they can’t kneel in protest.” Miss Abrams was also involved in some protests in 1992, while a student at Spelman College. Pictures today […]

  5. […] PG wrote about Ms. Abrams, and the nightmare election, several times. Stacey and Stacey ~ The battle of fair street bottom Politically Relevant ~ Georgia voter registration Why Did The 1956 Legislature Change The Flag? ~ […]

  6. 04-30-1992 | Chamblee54 said, on April 30, 2019 at 7:39 am

    […] had been videotaped, and received widespread attention. The verdict of the jury was not popular. The dissatisfaction spread to Atlanta. Sometimes, PG thinks he has a guardian angel looking over him. If so, then this thursday […]

  7. This is a repost. […]

  8. […] flag had the Confederate battle flag embedded. People were asking the legislature to change that. Miss Abrams was a student activist. This is a repost. The NYT article sparked a twitter dogpile, about the motives of the Georgia […]


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