LABOR HEADLINES–MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2019
For today’s Labor Headlines, I am only reporting on one story — no, not the Mueller report — but the announcement that the Missing and Murdered Children’s cases are being reopened.
Taklk about a reign of terror that gripped Atlanta’s poor and working class Black communities from the summer of 1979 to early 1981 as at least 25 African-American children, mostly boys, were killed. Several adults in their 20’s were also murdered during this period for a total of 31 homicides, many along the Memorial Dr corridor and connecting streets.
Wayne Williams, then 23 years old, was convicted in the deaths of two adults in 1981 and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Although he was not charged in the children’s murders and no evidence has been admitted in a court proceeding to that effect, police claimed that he was responsible for at least 22 of the killings. Williams has always to this day denied any connection to the children’s cases. Nevertheless, all of the Fulton County cases were closed and 5 under DeKalb jurisdiction remain officially unsolved.
For the most part, the children’s murders disappeared from the public view although a number of the mothers over the years continued to press for answers.
Forty years have gone by.
On Thursday, March 21, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that the evidence from the crime scenes would be retested given that there are now advanced DNA and forensic tests.
According to Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, there are boxes and boxes of materials related to these children’s deaths, a significant portion of which has never been tested. (Reminds me of the thousands of rape kits that went untested by police agencies, leaving the victims of sexual assault with no recourse.)
Several children went missing after going to the corner store for their mom or playing in a park, only for their bodies to be found days and even months later.
It took Atlanta police a while to realize that there was a serial killer targeting Black children.
The fear in Atlanta was palpable. I remember driving along I-20 and seeing a black trash bag on the side of the highway, scared there was another child’s body inside until a gust of wind caused it to blow away.
Every week-end hundreds of people would be involved in search teams, scouring wooded areas and abandoned buildings, looking for the missing children.
The public housing projects, home to some of the victims, responded, particularly Techwood Homes, near the Georgia Tech campus. It has since been torn down and replaced with so-called mixed housing. But at that time Marian Green, the tenants association president and a militant community leader, organized with the help of several Vietnam war vets and others the Bat Patrol, teams of residents and allies who patrolled the neighborhood to keep watch over the children. Some would carry a baseball bat, hence the name.
The police who were under intense criticism for the tepid response to the first several murders of Black children reacted to the Bat patrol with charges of “vigilantism” and “impeding the police investigation.”
I recall vividly an evening when Patrol members were gathered In the Techwood Homes community center and the building was surrounded by police who threatened to arrest anyone who attempted to guard the community.
40 years ago these Black children’s lives did not matter to the power structure of Atlanta. They have always mattered to their families and communities.
We at The Labor Forum demand that their killer or killers be identified and p whatever justice can be found for their families under this biased system be provided.