A protest outside the DeKalb County jail turned violent on Wednesday evening after some demonstrators refused to stop blocking traffic along Memorial Drive.
Several people were taken to the ground, restrained in plastic handcuffs and loaded into a DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office van. It appears that a Taser was used on at least one person.
The Atlanta chapter of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, an inmate-rights group, organized the protest that began at the Kensington MARTA station. The group, along with anarchist and anti-police-brutality organizations have complained for weeks about what they say are poor and unsafe conditions inside the jail.
They claim that inmates are being denied access to healthcare and live in unsanitary conditions, including an ongoing problem with black mold. According to the protesters, inmates who complain face retaliation and abuse.
DeKalb Sheriff Jeffrey Mann refutes claims that of human rights violations are occurring at the jail, but he said mold is an issue he is working to address. He offered last week to meet with IWOC representatives, but they declined and said he should hold a forum with current inmates instead.
Law enforcement officers initially closed Memorial Drive to allow about 100 protesters to march from the MARTA station to the jail. But the standoff grew intense when demonstrators refused to move to the sidewalk in order to restore the flow of traffic after about 30 minutes.
Over 100 law enforcement officers were on scene, including the Georgia State Patrol and DeKalb County Police Department. The arrests happened around 7:35 p.m.
After several people were detained, the protest continued without incident for another 90 minutes. Inmates inside the jail could be heard banging on windows to acknowledge the protest, and some drivers of cars stuck in traffic because of the protest honked their horns in support.
A similar protest at the jail in April also resulted in arrests after demonstrators pushed their way inside the jail lobby. The Sheriff’s Office said one officer was injured and demonstrators threw firecrackers and smoke bombs.
Organizers said they will protest again at the jail on Thursday.