ATLANTA—Family, friends and supporters have been organizing nonstop to get justice for Johnny Hollman, a 62-year-old Black man and church deacon who was killed by a young Black officer with the Atlanta Police Department.
Activists held a news conference at the Fulton County Courthouse on Nov. 30 demanding the arrest and prosecution of former Ofc. Kiran Kimbrough, 23, and tow truck driver Eric Robinson, who placed a knee on Mr. Hollman’s neck to hold the deacon down during arrest.
Speakers at the news conference included Shar Bates of My Vote Is Hip Hop, rapper Yung Joc, activist and New York Times best-selling author Kimberly L. Jones, Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders, Inc., Timothy Franzen of the American Friends Service Committee, Francys Johnson of Davis Bozeman Johnson Law, journalist and community organizer Derrick Boazman,
Stacey Bristow of Beyond the Streets Social Justice Task Force, Rev. Shanan Jones of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc., a representative of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Atty. Mawuli Davis of Davis Bozeman Johnson Law and Arnitra Hollman, eldest daughter of Deacon Hollman.
Ms. Bates condemned the fact that the identity and involvement of tow truck driver Mr. Robinson in the death of Deacon Hollman was hidden. “I’m appalled that a Black Derek Chauvin was protected in the birthplace of civil rights,” she said, referencing the officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Ms. Bates desires to see everyone involved in protecting Mr. Robinson, who is a former security officer, be held accountable, as well as the other six police officers on the scene who failed to render aid to Deacon Hollman. “You would have to view a man as non-human to hear him screaming, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and put your knee on his neck,” she added.
Mr. Franklin has been a strong advocate against what activists have called “Cop City,” a police training facility being built in Atlanta.
“We have to understand that these killings won’t stop because they build ‘Cop City.’ Instead, these killings will increase, because they will learn and train together on how to continue to kill our people,” he said. “They will learn and train together internationally and nationally, bringing in the Israeli police forces, bringing in police forces from around the country, to learn the techniques to continue to murder our people,” he argued.
Several of the organizers linked the policing problems in the city to politicians. They voiced their desire for change and to vote anyone out who is not standing for the people. They also pleaded and demanded for Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani T. Willis to charge and prosecute former Ofc. Kimbrough and Mr. Robinson.
“As president of Concerned Black Clergy, I’m concerned about a nightmare I am seeing on the streets of Atlanta,” Rev. Jones said. “When I was a little boy, there was a movie that scared the socks off of me. It was called, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’ But what I’m witnessing now is a ‘nightmare on Atlanta’s streets.’”
How he felt as he watched the death of Deacon Hollman via body camera footage is similar to how he felt watching George Floyd being murdered.
“If they want to be Derek Chauvin, then put them in jail like Derek Chauvin. If they want to be Derek Chauvin, then take them before the courts like Derek Chauvin. Since they want to be Derek Chauvin, then go ahead and sentence them like Derek Chauvin. Give them the same sentence that you gave Derek Chauvin,” Rev. Jones said.
“It is a nightmare on Atlanta’s streets, and I’m asking Fani Willis, is she becoming the new Freddie Krueger?” he added. “Can you stop this nightmare by standing for justice and righteousness in the midst of this terrible miscarriage of justice, in the midst of this unholy night in this place where we can get no silence?”
Atty. Davis commended the diverse organizers who were present, from poets, writers and musicians to students from the Atlanta University Center and elders in the community.
Deacon Hollman’s family is spending their first holiday season without him. His eldest daughter, Arnitra Hollman, said all she wants for Christmas is her father.
“We’re asking D.A. Willis if you want to give my family something for Christmas, give us the arrest of these officers. Give us an indictment. Let it be prosecuted,” she said. “That’s what we want, and we want to see victory.”
—Anisah Muhammad, Contributing Writer