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As cities are remade due to years of urban blight and middle class flight, gentrification has become modern civil rights issue. Hip boutiques and high-end apartment buildings replace long neglected areas filled with boarded up homes and dilapidated store fronts. While all seems well on the surface, long-time residents and business owners are often driven out of these areas due to the rising rents and property taxes that come with gentrification.
With the relocation of the Atlanta Braves to the new Suntrust Stadium in Cobb County, Georgia State University has recently obtained Turner Field. The plans are to transform Turner Field into a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose sports stadium and a new home for the Panthers, GSU’s football team. The future plans include a mixed-community with facilities for athletics, academics, housing and retail spaces. These plans will bring major changes to the surrounding neighborhoods of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Adair Park, and Peoplestown.
Due to this new development and the fear of displacement and higher cost of living, the Turner Fields Community Benefits Coalition was formed. The TFCBC is a network of local organizations joined together to seek support and justice for these long-neglected neighborhoods. The coalition’s goal is to have “development without displacement” or “community over commodity.” The TFCBC’s aim was to get the developers along with GSU to agree to sign a community benefits agreement. This agreement would make sure the residents of the surrounding stadium would not suffer from the adverse effects of the redevelopment. The TFCBC also wanted a commitment from Carter Development, to invest in education and job opportunities for the current residents. However, no agreement was reached and the sale of Turner Field was finalized on January 6th, 2017.
So activists took the streets...literally. SInce April 1st, residents and supporters have erected a tent city in front of Turner Field.
On April 18th, the Georgia chapter of the Council of Islamic Relations joined Imam Furqan A. Muhammad of Masjid Al-Muminun for an interfaith prayer event in front of Turner Field in support of Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition. This is a personal and political issue for Masjid Al-Muminun as it is located in the neighborhood of Peoplestown off of Hank Aaron Blvd. The interfaith event came after GSU professors stated their disappointment in the handling of the issue by GSU president Mark Becker.
Asma El-Huni, Outreach Director for CAIR-GA and a member of United Students Against Sweatshops, says, “As a (GSU) student, I have a duty to speak out and take a stand against the displacement of residents. It is not ok to ‘develop’ an area without the input of the affected communities. It was our student money that was used to for this purchase so it’s incumbent on upon us to demand that Georgia State University’s does the right thing and signs a legally binding contract that puts things in place to ensure that displacement does not occur and inclusion of local residents happens’.”
The sale has been finalized but the fight is long from over for the local residents and their supporters. The TFCBC and GSU students plan to resist and protest until a community benefits agreement is signed.
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