Carter library parkway faces more citizen opposition in Atlanta
Atlanta — Opposition to the Jimmy Carter presidential parkway, being built in connection with his library here, appears to be mounting. In one park in the path of the four-lane parkway, some 30 people were arrested this week, bringing the total arrests in civil disobedience to about 50 in the past several weeks. The resisters are hoping to stall construction until the courts issue final rulings on lawsuits aimed at stopping the project.
And a small ``Tent City,'' a collection of about a dozen tents, has been set up in another park to be paved over. Recently, Sally Harbaugh eased her Cadillac to the curb there and handed gloves to her husband, Norman, a professor at Georgia State University. He put them on, then continued to march, carrying a sign protesting Mr. Carter's support of the in-town parkway.
The Georgia Department of Transportation says the parkway is needed to ease commuter traffic. But the project, which had been on the back burner for a decade because of opposition, was revived only when it became linked to the Carter library. Former President Carter has expressed support for the parkway, which will pass on either side of the library.
Tent City is in Shady Side Park, one of a string of parks along Ponce de Leon Avenue, designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. He designed New York's Central Park and parks in Boston, as well as the grounds around the US Capitol.
The parkway is to end at the park. But opponents are concerned that more of the Olmstead parks here will be destroyed if the construction is eventually extended, as some state plans have called for. Mrs. Harbaugh is on a national committee aimed at preserving Olmstead parks across US.
``I can't afford to get arrested,'' says Mr. Harbaugh, when asked how far he will carry his protest. But others among the mostly middle-class protesters are going further. They call themselves ``Roadbusters.'' And so far they have delayed construction only slightly, by sitting in front of bulldozers or climbing trees about to be cut down. But they claim credit for the fact that some large oak trees at Tent City are still standing.
This week on a single day, some 30 people were hauled off by police from where they were sitting in front of a large crane in Goldsboro Park. ``Who's next?'' a lieutenant asked, as they were taken to paddy wagons. The protesters agreed to walk up a muddy hill to help the police, but from there on most went limp and had to be pulled.
Many of the protesters are living double lives these days. They put on boots or tennis shoes and jeans and join the protest lines in the morning for an hour or two. Then they go home, change into business clothes, and go to the office. At night, some return to the protest site.
Among the 30 arrested here in one day were a cabinetmaker, a legal secretary, nurse, stone mason, a high school teacher, a dance teacher, and a plumber.
In an earlier arrest, Doug Barlow, a local printer, stood arm in arm with several others in front of a bulldozer. ``We're here to stop them,'' he said, just before he was arrested.
``We're in the middle,'' said one of arresting officers at the protest site that day, speaking of the position police are in between construction crews and demonstrators. Several officers said the protesters pose no problems of violence. They keep the police informed of what they intend to do; some have had training in nonviolent civil-disobedience tactics. A construction worker said: ``We're just doing our jobs.''
Unlike the more numerous protesters at the South African Embassy in Washington, the parkway protesters have charges filed against them and face fines or jail sentences. At jail, Mr. Barlow and the other demonstrators met another prisoner who expressed surprise that people actually wanted to get arrested. Mayor Andrew Young has said those blocking construction should be prepared to spend some time in jail.
One of those arrested earlier was Bruce Maclachlan. He and his wife, Gretchen, climbed into an old dogwood tree as crews prepared to cut it down. When police ordered them down, she climbed down to be free to bail him out. He stalled and was jailed briefly. The dogwood was cut, but not the nearby oaks. Mr. Maclachlan has long served on his neighborhood's beautification committee, whose work includes tree planting.